Completed 30 More information sought about Alderman Horace Robert Walker's portrait

WYR_BMGH_1975_159
Topic: Artist

William Charles Evans (1911–1978) was my grandfather. I am very doubtful that this was painted by him. It's not in his style and certainly earlier works didn't have this more photographic finish. The other images on Art UK of my grandfather's work are certainly his; I have seen them all before.

The signature on the Alderman Horace Robert Walker portrait is also nothing like Will's who always painted his signature starting with a very square angular 'E', as seen in the few other portraits listed.

Aimee Andrew, Entry reviewed by Art UK

Completed, Outcome

Edward Stone,

The discussion is now closed. The birth date of the sitter of this portrait has been amended to 1892. The painting is now listed as by Thomas Sherlock Evans (1893–1982), although the presentation of the artist’s name may be updated in due course.

Thank you to all for participating in this discussion. To those viewing this discussion for the first time, please see below for all comments that led to this conclusion.

29 comments

Gregory Burgess,

There have been requests for a photograph of your grandfather to be made available . Are you able to oblige?

Seeyam Brijmohun,

Could it be a work by David Pugh Evans, which was created whilst he was a student?

Martin Hopkinson,

David Pugh Evans studied at Newport College of Art and at the Royal College of Art. He taught at Edinburgh College of Art from 1965 to 1998, and had a large exhibition at the Fruitmarket Gallery in 1982
He could probably reached through Edinburgh's Open Eye Gallery, which represents him. I never saw a painting by him in anything like this style when I was in Scotland between 1977 and 1997, but I do not know his early work. He will certainly be able to answer Seeyam's question.

The conclusion of the earlier discussion (with the resulting qualification to the artist heading) was that the existing attribution to W.C. Evans while not totally convincing was nevertheless not entirely impossible. I suggest that the welcome contribution, now, from a member of W.C. Evans's family at the very least tips the balance of judgement towards doubt.

However, I think David Pugh Evans is an unlikely candidate. He was born in 1942, so would have been no more than 15 in 1957, the date of the portrait. In other words, he would have been a schoolboy, not even an art student (he entered Newport College of Art in 1959). I don't see this as the work of someone that age.

Aimee, would you mind looking at the painting signed 'Evans' and titled as 'Lesley Witts' (sic) which is held by Oxford University Hospitals? The link is below: http://artuk.org/discover/artworks/lesley-witts-43063/search/works:lesley-witts/page/1/view_as/grid
As both Andrew and Osmund pointed out over a year ago, it seems highly probable that that painting is by your grandfather, who painted the portraits of several notables at Oxford. The sitter for that portrait is in fact Professor Leslie John Witts (1898-1982) who was the first Nuffield Professor of Clinical Medicine at Oxford and he set up the full time medical unit in the Radcliffe Infirmary. As for the painting of Alderman Horace Robert Walker it seems to me highly unlikely that it was painted by your grandfather. In addition, as Martin mentions above, it is nothing like the work of David Pugh Evans (born 1942) either who would have been fifteen in the year it was executed.

Osmund Bullock,

Aimee, I completely agree. When we discussed this portrait (of Alderman Walker) before, several of us felt it was extremely unlikely that it could be by your grandfather – as you say, the style of painting and signing are completely different. I was not a little puzzled that the discussion ended with a recommendation to attribute it to him, however uncertainly. Of course we cannot be 100% sure without detailed research of a kind beyond the scope of this forum (and even then far from certain to produce a result); but I am uneasy at leaving the attribution as it currently stands.

Gregory, the originator of the previous discussion (Terence Williams) was interested in seeing a photo of the artist for purely personal reasons, but I don't think it is really relevant to the discussion. I am sure ArtUK would pass on a private message from Mr Williams to Aimee Andrew if he still wants to pursue that.

The welcome contribution of a member of W.C. Evans's family does indeed cast further doubt on the existing attribution. I also agree that the portrait is not the work of David Pugh Evans, who would have been a mere schoolboy in 1957 (he entered Newport College of Art in 1959).

The simple and confident form of the signature 'Evans' (if, indeed, that is how it should be read) suggests that the artist was established and well-known in the field of formal portraiture at the time. In that case he/she is likely to have exhibited with the Royal Society of Portrait Painters. I'll check the catalogues of the Society's exhibitions of 1957 and thereabouts, when the Courtauld and V&A libraries have re-opened after their August break. It would be too much to hope of finding this particular portrait listed, but perhaps there's a chance of finding other artists named Evans (or similar) painting portraits of this kind then.

Jade King,

Art UK also received an email from a relative of the sitter, Alderman Horace Robert Walker (they do not wish to be involved in the discussion, however I can relay messages or questions). The current birth date is incorrect:

'Horace Robert Walker is my ‘Uncle Bob’ (my great uncle really), as the family called him. He was my grandfather Charles Fredrick Walker’s brother and I met him and his wife Silvia, my (great) aunty, many times when I was a young child. My father attended his funeral, and I have one of his original ‘Lord Mayor’ elect invites. I see the painting was donated by Joan Walker who was once married to Horace Robert’s son, Peter Walker.

The thing is, you have got his date of birth wrong: he was born in 1892 not 1862. I don’t think he’s be happy to be thought of as 30 years older than he actually was!

More about Horace Robert Walker:

Horace Robert Walker (‘Bob’) was the brother of Norman (b.1887); Charles (1889–1982, my grandfather and manager of Lister’s Mill Dyehouse); Nellie (still alive in 1982); and an elder sister called Alice who lived at Boston Spa. Their parents died when they were young (their father Frederik Walker died in 1898 and their mother Elizabeth Mary Walker, née Hornshaw, died in 1990). They were left orphans so were brought up by a branch of the Hornshaw family (Hornshaws of Thorpe Arch and Listers Mill Director fame) at 7 Athol Road in Manningham Bradford.

They are distantly related to Sir Harrison Birtwistle – the composer – via their Makepeace relatives: their grandmother was a Makepeace and they were also related to the mid-twentieth-century writer Stanley Makepeace Lott. Horace Robert Walker’s maternal great-grandfather was a man called William Makepeace: he was a footman to Lady Olivia Barnard Sparrow at Brampton Park in Huntingdon. Sir Harrison Birtwistle is also descended from William Makepeace’s family.

Horace Robert, was, I believe, a quartermaster in the First World War and I think he was in Bradford Pals. I believe he was an office clerk when he was young. Horace Robert had two sons: one was called Peter and the other I think was called Geoffrey. I have met Horace Robert, my great uncle, and his wife Silvia used to come up to Heaton Bradford to see my grandpa Charlie and my grandmother. I think Horace Robert lived in the Frizinghall area.’

Osmund Bullock,

Hah, you've stolen my thunder, Jade! I was preparing an extensive post mentioning the date error (which was given correctly in the previous discussion), and also saying that I had managed, after some Herculean labours, to identify the portrait's donor as the Bradford GP Dr Joan Lyall Walker who in 1949 married Alderman Walker's elder son Peter at Glasgow (where she trained). Joan's maiden name was also Walker, which confused me for a while! The younger son was I think called Alec Robert rather than Geoffrey (he died in 1979). Bob Walker was indeed a Regimental Quarter Master Sergeant during WWI - but although he signed up in 1914 with the 1st Bradford Pals (16th Battalion W Yorkshire Regt), he was later transferred to the 21st Bn (The Wool Textile Pioneers), and was RQMS of that unit in 1916 when he married.

Having heard most helpfully and fully from the family, it seems unlikely we will discover more about the portrait from the sitter's side...which leaves us pretty much where we were as far as artist identification is concerned, alas.

I have checked the catalogues of the annual exhibitions of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters held in 1957 and 1958. The only name appearing in these which is remotely like the signature on the Bradford picture is Elwes, that is the well-known Simon Elwes -- whose style is completely different. For good measure I have also checked the post-Graves volumes of Royal Academy exhibitors (not yet, as far as I know, online) without finding any suitable match.

That said, I am beginning to wonder whether I am alone in finding the work so photographic in appearance that it might actually have a photographic basis -- what we see being paint applied over a photographic enlargement on paper or over a photographic image somehow otherwise transferred to canvas.

No, Richard, you are not alone. I too detect a photographic feel here and wonder if it is the product of a photographic studio specialising in such painted versions of photographs. The very slick signature is also suggestive of this practice. A search of photographic sudios in Bradford or West Yorkshire in the period might uncover something.

I note that Art UK has not yet updated the birth date of Alderman Walker.

B Dale,

This is my Great-granduncle! My mother is more the genealogist so I'm not really a contact point for such enquiries, though I'm happy to relay any messages. My mother knew him as a child - he was known as Uncle Bob to the family.

I understand the nature of this website is to attribute works to specific artists, though I'm personally curious as to why the legitimacy of this image as a signed painting is being questioned and what evidence is being used to make this deduction without the original piece being inspected by an expert.

I personally work in photography, mainly as a product photographer and am fully conversant in web imaging technologies so I do hope any assumption is not based on the image displayed above, which may lend itself to any theory of manipulation or deception.

I cannot comment on individual artists as it is not an area of personal interest, though I’d very much like to determine the authenticity of the painting for the benefit Alderman Walker

I’d also like to pose a question as to the purpose of producing a mock oil-on-canvas from a photograph of the Lord Mayor of Bradford in 1956/57?

If we are to branch out from its authenticity as a genuine painting, then surely the reasons for doing so should be considered by those proposing such a theory.

Any further information relevant to this would be warmly welcomed.

B Dale is of course right to suggest that inspecting the picture first-hand would be better, but Art Detective, by its very nature, has to rely in the first instance on digital images and work from there.

Several of Detective's successful outcomes have derived from hunches and opinions by experienced individuals, followed up by documentary evidence and further photographs and information from the collections concerned.

Speaking for myself, and I hope other ex- and current art curators who contribute to Art Detective, we have spent our careers looking at paintings and learning how to distinguish the look of different schools, periods and techniques.

Richard Green and I were 'wondering' and 'suggesting' based on the fact that no portrait painter named Evans has been found whose work convincingly fits the style and date of the painting, and on the opinion that the smooth finish, the hard edges, such as the dark left hand edge of the arm, and the slick signature, are reminiscent to us of what was a well-known common practice, certainly earlier in the century. Rather than making an 'assumption' or 'deduction', we were merely intending to open up a potential new avenue for investigation.

The purpose of such practice included economy and the ability to create replicas, rather than deception. The fact that this painting came from the family might perhaps be evidence of it being such a replica, maybe of a civic portrait.

B Dale,

I must just say that I wasn’t casting any aspersions as to anyone's credibility on the website or attempting to undermine the valuable and time consuming expertise that clearly goes into validating such pieces.

My own curiosity arises from the suggested mismatch (or lack of authenticity) surrounding signature and painting. Furthermore, there is the additional theory of reproduction, which to my mind doesn’t carry sufficient credibility.

Working on what is essentially a low resolution image that lends itself to a multitude of possibilities for manipulation, my question is why?

What essentially are we looking at and what defines what it is? Who is choosing to deceive us and why? Or does lack of evidence consign an artist, perhaps unaware of any namesake, or without any means to establish themselves on a grander scale, to the abyss?

Maybe it’s one for Agatha Christie in that we could all do with consulting (the artist known as) Evans on this one!

John Bolton,

Concerning William Evans authorship of the Alderman Horace Robert Walker portrait.
I was taught by William Evans at Bournemouth College of Art (1966-9) and I am also still in contact with his son Richard. He has confirmed my own suspicions over this particular work as defiantly not the work of his father. The handling is too seamless and and the signature is wrong.

Thank you, John (Bolton), for adding significantly to the weight of informed opinion that this is not the work of William Charles Evans.

I think the time has come to ask whether the collection could examine the portrait closely, out of its frame, paying particular attention to the edges. The object would be to ascertain whether the image has been created on paper laid down on what is apparently a canvas support, or find other clues as to the physical make-up of the work. Of course, a note of any labels or markings on the reverse would be helpful too.

It's going to be difficult to take the discussion much further forward without being more certain of the physical nature of the object we have under review.

Osmund Bullock,

Slightly to my surprise I think I’ve cracked it. Pursuing the ‘photographic’ idea that first emerged in the previous discussion, I decided to follow up Andrew’s suggestion of looking for any 1950s Bradford photographic studio called ‘Evans’...and indeed there was one.

Thomas Aubrey Evans (1867-1947) was born in Scotland, the son of an iron worker originally from England. By 1891 Thomas had set up as a photographer in Hawick, Roxburghshire, but in around 1897 he moved with his family to Bradford, and carried on in the same trade. He worked initially as a manager (1901 Census) in a large photographic firm called Thompson, with branches all over Yorks & the NE; but by 1911 he was in business on his own account, operating as ‘T.A. Evans’ of Godwin St, Bradford, and later (after taking his elder son William Aubrey Evans into the business) as ‘T.A. Evans and Son’. He died in 1947, but the business continued with the same name and address until the late 1960s – their last telephone listing was in April 1968.

Now it gets more interesting. Through a single comment he made about Thos Aubrey Evans some time ago on the EdinPhoto website ‘, I was able to track down his great-grandson, Adrian Siswick, who still lives in the West Riding and is a photographer himself. I’ve just made contact with him, and he has been extraordinarily helpful and informative. The ‘semi-photographic’ hypothesis about the portrait is almost certainly wrong – but ironically, though technically a red herring, it has led us to exactly the right place. Both Mr Siswick and I are now quite certain that the painter of Alderman Walker’s portrait is not T.A. Evans, but his artist younger son, (Thomas) Sherlock Evans (1893-1982). Sherlock was Mr Siswick’s great uncle, and he knew him and his work well.

Osmund Bullock,

Sherlock Evans was born in Hawick but came south with the family as a child, and in 1909 &1911; is recorded as an art student (at the Bradford School of Art). After service with the Royal Marines Artillery during World War I he became a commercial artist and designer (the latter being how he always describes himself) – he worked throughout and until his retirement for the Bradford firm of Field Sons & Co, who specialized in producing packaging with high-quality colour print design/illustration. He was apparently responsible for the famous Drambuie ‘Bonnie Prince Charlie’ picture which many people will remember: http://bit.ly/2k20h8X . Most of the identifiable works viewable on the internet, however, are highly-finished flower pieces, and some at least of these were reproduced on Terry’s chocolate boxes. An illustrated history of Field Sons & Co has helpfully been uploaded to the internet, and as well as an image of one of Sherlock’s flower paintings there is apparently a photograph of the man himself at work: http://bit.ly/2fzOPjj . Mr Siswick says he is the bearded gentleman in the first black and white photo.

But he always painted for his own pleasure on the side, and from at least the mid-1930s (and perhaps as early as 1914) exhibited at apparently prestigious (but amateur) shows in Yorkshire, many of them held at Cartwright Hall in Bradford. Alongside admired watercolour landscapes, portraits were a common theme and this side seems to have developed into commissioned work after WW II. For several years he produced portrait drawings of leading figures in the textile industry for the Textile Society’s annual journal, and there is mention of painted presentation works too.

Osmund Bullock,

There seems to be no formal biographical record of Sherlock as an artist in print or on the internet at all – often the fate of both commercial artists and amateurs, however good, as exhibiting at professional venues is the key to being noted. Inasmuch as he is mentioned – and there *is* quite a lot about him in contemporary local newspapers – it is sometimes as ‘T.S. Evans’, sometimes as ‘T. Sherlock Evans’, occasionally in error as ‘Sherlock T Evans’, but most commonly as plain Sherlock (the name by which his family knew him).

I am attaching (a) a composite image of 'Evans' signatures for comparison – the first from the Walker portrait, the others (very small) from various works by Sherlock I found online; (b) three further signatures on later (60s/70s) works in Mr Siswick’s collection; (c) a pdf of some flower pieces from the 40s/50s, mainly from auction records. I am also putting together a dozen relevant newspaper articles which I’ll post later. It is easy to dismiss him as a mere chocolate-box illustrator; but though the art movements of the C20th seem to have left him unmoved, I think his skills were very notable and certainly deserving of this online airing.

Hearty congratulations to Osmund for his brilliant detectve work and mastery of resources in identifying the artist as Thomas Sherlock Evans (1893-1982). The style of his portrait drawings is consistent with the painting and the signatures surely confirm his authorship. If Richard Green agrees, he could make a formal recommendation to accept this reattribution. Strange though, that no other paintings by him seem to be in public collections, especially other local portraits.

Osmund Bullock,

Mr Siswick has very kindly sent me the attached image of a press photo (Yorkshire Post June 1964) of the artist (his great uncle) with another commissioned portrait and its sitter (apparently a MrJerome) - its hyper-realistic style is entirely consistent with ours. He's also sent images of eight more flower pieces by Sherlock dating from the 1950s & 60s that were used in his employer's annual calendars. I'm not attaching them for now, but the signature style is again identical to ours. If anyone wants to see them let me know.

1 attachment
Sue Pulley,

Hi
I am researching my grandfather, T S Evans, who lived in Bradford and was a very talented artist. We know he painted many dignatories during his lifetime and this portrait is exactly his style. He used to work for Fields and So S and was head of their design department.
I would be interested to see the signature on this painting as I would know at once if it was painted by him.

Sue Pulley,

Hi
Have just enlarged the signature and can confirm it is my grandfather! His daughter, now 97, is with me and also confirms!
Well how about that!

Osmund Bullock,

Hello, Sue – great to hear from you, and wonderful to have your and your mother Kathleen's confirmation of what your cousin Adrian Siswick told me. As you’ll have seen above, Adrian has been hugely helpful with information and images, most of which I've posted here (along with other things, mainly newspaper articles).

It’s funny how we struggled for so long with this portrait in a previous discussion ( http://bit.ly/2gUko87 ), and without success. Now, thanks to the artist's family, we have all the evidence we need for the correct attribution. You must be pleased to know that one of your grandfather’s works is in a local public collection, and that his career and work has had such good airing on the web. Once the artist’s name has been changed here and on Art UK, anyone searching for information about Sherlock Evans in future should be able to find it with ease.

On which subject, can we (as Andrew suggested a little while ago) move things towards a formal conclusion? Now that we know the right one, it seems a pity to have the wrong artist’s name attached to this portrait for any longer than necessary.

This has been a fascinating discussion, which has reached a most satisfying conclusion.

Many thanks indeed to Osmund for his brilliant and tireless detective work, and for compiling such a comprehensive dossier on (Thomas) Sherlock Evans. Acknowledgments for their valuable contributions are also clearly due to members of Evans's family - Adrian Siswick, his great nephew, Sue Pulley, his granddaughter, and Kathleen, his daughter.

I am happy to recommend that the artist’s name be changed to either (A) (Thomas) Sherlock Evans or (B) Thomas Sherlock Evans – whichever is preferred by the family – with 1893-1982 as birth and death dates. Legally, the artist’s name was Thomas Sherlock Evans. However, since he was generally known as Sherlock Evans, there is an argument for recording his name as version (A), the form which Osmund initially uses. Edward Stone at ArtUK advises that version (B) would helpfully make searching under either of the forenames possible, but points out that the final decision must rest with the family as holders of the copyright in Evans’s work.

Alderman Walker's birthdate should at the same time be corrected to 1892. It is interesting to note that, as now established, artist and sitter were almost exact contemporaries.

A final footnote:
The very brief entry on ‘Sherlock T. Evans’ in Dennis Child's 'Painters in the Northern Counties of England and Wales', 2nd edition, Leeds 2002, p.253, confirms that the artist did exhibit in Bradford in 1914.