Completed Portraits: British 20th C, Yorkshire, The Humber and North East England: Artists and Subjects 18 Was this portrait painted by William Charles Evans (1911–1978)?

Topic: Artist

Is this portrait of Alderman H. R. Walker, JP, listed as by 'Evans', actually by William Charles Evans (1911–1978) who has other portraits in BBC collection?

See other William Charles Evans (1911–1978) works here:

William Charles Evans (1911–1978) was my tutor at art school in the late sixties.

Collection note: The artist has been listed as 'Evans' just based on the obvious signature on the picture itself, as there is no information recorded about the painting's artist on our collections database. The work doesn't seem too disimilar from the other works by William Charles Evans so it certainly could be by him, but without any more information about the artist or work itself we aren't in a position to say for sure.

Terence Williams, Entry reviewed by Art UK

Completed, Outcome

Jade Audrey King,

The artist record has been changed to 'attributed to' William Charles Evans (1911–1978).

This amend will appear on the Your Paintings website by the end of July 2015. 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.


Jade Audrey King,

The PCF's copyright department have so far been unable to trace the 'Evans' who painted this portrait, and also unfortunately unable to trace the copyright holder of works by William Charles Evans (1911–1978). Any new information would be welcomed by our copyright team.

Mike Hughes,

The sitter seems to be wearing mayoral robes. Horace Robert Walker was mayor of Bradford in 1956-57 which would place the painting in the late fifties. My guess is that this is not a private portrait but one commissioned to mark his period as mayor. Leeds also did the same thing. Somewhere there will be an decision about the commission and an account of the unveiling. The Council, West Yorkshire Archives and Telegraph and Argus or Yorkshire Post would be an obvious starting point I guess....

The seven portraits on Your Paintings by William Charles Evans, dating from the mid '60s to the mid '70s, are all in a consistent painterly style, with prominent square-ended brushstrokes, and with a distinctive signature 'EVANS/'. It seems to me unlikely that this portrait of Alderman Walker, with its almost photographic realism and very different form of signature is by the same artist.

On the other hand the portrait of Lesley Witts in Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust might well be by William Charles Evans!

Osmund Bullock,

I agree, Andrew - surely not the same painter (unless he underwent a Damascene artistic conversion between 1957 & 1965); and I would hazard that *actual* photography played a part in the unknown artist's technique. You're clearly right about Lesley Watts, too.

Horace Robert Walker's year as mayor ended in May 1957, and he died at Bradford late in 1970 (born April 1892, also in B.). His wife had probably predeceased him. So it would fit that the Walker who gave it to Bradford Museums in '75 was family - but not, apparently, a child. (HRW seems to have had two sons born in 1919 & 1923, but they were called Peter & Alec Robt.) Possibly a brother or a grandson, but Walker is such a common name that getting to grips with the genealogy is very challenging (and perhaps not worth the effort).

Terence Williams,

Knowing Will as well as I did, and his tutoring of me in painting covering two main themes, motivation and application, (having inspired spirit about what is contemplated largely the motivation, and detailed procedures of palette use with regard to colour approaches etc. in application), leaves me, along with viewing his other portraits, held by BBC, a bit miffed, and comparing them to this one of the Alderman, I perceive an inclination greater towards ‘finish’ inclined almost to a photographic level of reproduction perhaps, than in the other works, so that I am left a quandary of conflicting evidence.

This greater emphasis on ‘finish’ of reproductive ilk, in the Alderman portrait, rather than in the others, may of course possibly be explained by a separation in time between what is ‘earlier’ and ‘later’. In his manner of tutorial however there was little trace of this to suggest a prizing of ‘finish’ to any sort of priority of great import, and his customary fluid development of form, emergent from application of colour and light, apparent in the BBC portraits, keyed very well with his teaching approach with me.

Yet…..there is certainly an affinity of interest in portraiture when it comes to choice of subjects, something important perhaps to a painter who is professional, earning his living from tutoring at Art School, and requiring noteworthy figures as subjects, while executing portraits himself.

A close colleague of his was the reputable Leonard Appelbee, also a tutor of mine, who, unfortunately, died in 2000, along with his wife shortly afterwards. To discover this was a great disappointment to me as I had hoped somewhere to find a photograph of Will who so fondly I remember, and I once thought Leonard may have had such a thing, until I found he too was no longer with us either. Dearly wish I could still talk to Will, for I owe him much in my own painting still today, though mine tends more toward allegory.

T’would be nice if all this could be resolved somehow, and clarified, and I did hear that there was a supplement done (Times or Telegraph, I think, on Will Evans and his work in the sixties, perhaps, which may well have included a photograph of him, along with some of these paintings. This, if it exists may well be the answer to everything here!
Terry Williams DFA Painting

Osmund Bullock,

Terence, there's no reason to feel miffed. If you hadn't asked the question, I don't think it would have occurred to anyone that this could be the work of William Charles Evans, whose rather more interesting portraits are well represented on 'Your Paintings'. As far as I can understand there's no evidence whatever to suggest it's by him: the collection's response is essentially neutral, and I doubt they'll be changing the present attribution.

Osmund Bullock,

Jade, a genealogy website I subscribe to has a partial tree of the sitter's family, and there's a grandchild on it (though with name redacted because still living). If you're anxious to track down the copyright holder, I can try getting in touch with the tree 'owner' by personal message: I suspect she is in fact the redacted grandchild, and may perhaps know something of the real artist.

Terence Williams,

Osmund- in my earlier contribution I did remark the alderman seems incongruous in approach both to Will's BBC archive, and to his tutoring of me, and for reasons such as stated.
The larger part of my 'miffing' is due to the name attributed to the alderman's painting, and the simularity of subject matter, however incongruous in application. I must admit also there is something here of a man clutching at straws to find anything I can about my much admired tutor- especially any photograph of him. I still think that Supplement to which I referred is the best chance of clinching matters.

Katharine Eustace, Sculpture,

It would be very helpful if Terence Williams could let us know where and when he was taught by William 'Bill' Evans, and indeed anything else he knows about him and his career.

Osmund Bullock,

I wonder if that will help, Katharine. I'm as confident as one can be without identifying the right artist that this is *not* by William Charles Evans - there is no evidence for it whatsoever, and the style of painting and signing are completely different. The only things the two artists seem to share is a surname (a common one), a proficiency in portrait-painting and an approximate date.

Terence Williams,

Response: I had Will Evans as tutor in the painting school of Bournemouth College of Art about 1967 to 1968 where his friend and associate, the reputable Leonard Appelbee, was Head of Painting. Leonard, whose work is well represented and applauded on the net, as Head of Painting, told me at interview I was just the sort of material he wanted on his course at Bournemouth at the time. A nice memory for me.
Terry Williams

Terence Williams,

I still think the best source of discovering more will be in the Supplement of the sixties on Will and his work...but I dont know whether it was the telegraph or times or whatever supplement...

Terence Williams,

Whether directly or indirectly, through this particular painting nothing seems to be forthcoming on 'the' Will Evans as I had hoped this may provoke.
Silence since my last mention of the Supplement article would suggest that the matter is ended here.
Thanks to all for such interest as taken.

Tim Williams,

As others have already said, I can't see this as being a work by William Charles Evans who seems to be a follower of the 'square brush school' - and a talented one at that. It's possible that Dr J. L. Walker (presumably kin of the sitter) who gifted the work to the museum in 1975 is still alive, and might be able to elaborate on the identity of the artist.

Katharine Eustace, Sculpture,

It is probably time to close this discussion, not that any discussion is closed if new information emerges,

A number of people have felt, including I surmise Terry Williams, that such a civic-style portrait could not be W.C. Evans. It is difficult even unwise to make judgements from photographs, and the old connoisseurs’ dictum ‘never make an attribution based on a photograph’ still holds true.

Having said that I did go and look at the W.C. Evans folder in the Heinz Library at the NPG, and there are no other painters with the name of Evans for the period. Three things struck me:

1a). Clearly this would be an early portrait by Evans, who the evidence suggests became a rather successful portrait painter in the 1960s. The signature and, sometimes, the date with a comma, and only the last two numerals of any year, under the signature, and lower right, as here: Evans / ’57 remains a constant. This does not in itself confirm that Alderman H.R. Walker is by W.C. Evans, but in the absence of any other contender it becomes more likely.

b) The objection to the ‘difference’ in painterly manner between this and other firmly attributed works is telling. The finish to Alderman Walker is certainly tighter and smoother, than the more bravura, even mannered brushstrokes of the later works. But take a closer look and it could be argued that the square brush technique is already present, notably in the red alderman’s gown, albeit possibly toned-down for a traditional and probably conservative type of commission.

c). Evans clearly did establish a reputation for this sort of institutional portrait, among his later sitters are a number of heads of academic institutions, from the Royal Society to Oxbridge Colleges and Oxford Brookes University.

2. There is always the possibility that this is a version, painted for the family and later presented to the City of Bradford either without knowledge of the existence of the first commissioned version, or because of damage or loss to what must surely have been a civic commission.

3. Time in the City archives in pursuit of possible evidence of a commission in Council Minutes could provide the necessary documentation to verify any attribution, although members of Walker’s family may still live in the locality and have recollections that might help.

And here we should let matters rest, until such time as someone can undertake that research. I for one am fairly happy to accept the attribution to Evans.

Jade Audrey King,

The collection has emailed directly to accepted the artist attribution.