Completed Portraits: British 20th C, Scotland: Artists and Subjects 35 What more can be established about the painter Guy Liddell?

Baron Arthur Tedder
Topic: Artist

Is it known whether the artist, Guy Liddell was the same person who was in MI5? There is virtually no information in the public domain which refers to any artist called 'Guy Liddell'.

Alan Waltham, Entry reviewed by Art UK

Completed, Outcome

This discussion is now closed. The title has been amended to ‘Air Marshal Sir Arthur William Tedder, 1st Baron Tedder (1890–1967)’ and the portrait dated 1942–1954. A biography of the artist has been produced for Art UK.

Thank you to everyone who contributed to the discussion. To anyone viewing this discussion for the first time, please see below for all the comments that led to this conclusion.


The Collection has commented: 'The portrait of Baron Arthur Tedder is by an artist named Guy Liddell but we do not think this is the same Guy Liddell of MI5. Our records indicate that the artist was a Colonel in the Engineers in the Indian Army. His wife was a botany lecturer at Calcutta. Unfortunately, we do not have her name, but she lived at Pitlochry, presumably after the artist's death. She gave the painting to our donor. We accepted the portrait of Tedder because his father was a Customs Officer in Shetland at the very end of the 19th century and Tedder went to school in Shetland as a young child. We would be very pleased to have further information about the artist if this can be established’.

Bill Ellson,

Guy Liddell married Bertha Mercer in the first quarter of 1946
Eastbourne Registration District Vol 2b page 180
Guy was about 77 and Bertha about 52.
(Given their ages there is a reasonable likelihood that one or both had been married before.) I will order a copy of their marriage registration that should indicate if either or both was widowed or divorced and give their fathers' names.)

Guy and Bertha Liddell made their home at Fonab (or Fonab Cottage), Pitlochry. (Electoral Registers and below.)

As well as our Guy Liddell and MI5's it is possible that there was a third Guy Liddell who was composed some music, but that might just be an earlier incarnation of our man. 'Colonel in the Engineers in the Indian Army' appears to be incorrect, but not far from the truth. It would be very helpful to know more about the basis of 'His wife was a botany lecturer at Calcutta.' and when the portrait was gifted

~ ~ ~

There was a Guy Liddell born in Madras (census entries) of the right age, but I am loathe to say that is definitely our man before seeing the marriage registration.

On 17 December 1953 Lt Col G Liddell and Mrs Liddell left Southampton on the Athlone Castle, bound for Cape Town. (Outward Passenger List.)

An Incoming Passenger List from Jan 1954 shows the Liddells,
Guy aged 85 and Bertha aged 60, arriving Southampton from Cape
Town onboard the RMMV Athlone Castle.

~ ~ ~

Dundee Courier 8 May 1954
The Royal homecoming

Dear Sir.-I submit the enclosed-sequel to the one you published
on the Royal departure.

Ring out the bell - with peals of joyful strain
To greet the coming of our Queen again

Ring out the bells - proclaim on every hand
The happy welcomes of the Motherland.

For twixt ourselves and lov'd ones 'o'er the sea
Our Queen has sealed a kindly sympathy.

No greater Commonwealth the earth has seen.
Ring out the bells - God Save Our Gracious Queen.

Guy Liddell
Fonab, Pitlochry

~ ~ ~
Dundee Courier 02 July 1954
LIDDELL. - On July 1, 1954, at Pert Royal Infirmary, Lieut.-
Col. Guy Liddell, R.E. (retired), of Fonab Cottage, Pitlochry,
formerly of Taunton, Somerset. Short service at Fonab Cottage
at 1.45 p.m., Saturday, July 3. Interment at Kinloch-Rannoch at
3 p.m.

Dundee Courier 29 September 1954
Inventories of net heriatable and movable estates lodged with
the Sheriff Clerk of Perthshire:-
Lieut.-Colonel Guy Liddell research and patent engineer. Fonab
Cottage, Pitlochry [£] 1,033

Jacinto Regalado,

Pieter, the portrait you link is distinctly better than Shetland's, perhaps because it is in a more congenial medium than oils.

Kieran Owens,

The son of William Byam Liddell (Madras, 1836 - Flushing, Cornwall, 8th October 1901) and Joan McLure (Scotland, 1842 - ????), Guy Liddell was born in Madras on the 8th November 1868 and died, aged 85, on the 1st July 1954, as mentioned above.

More details on his life can be learned from the attached article, which appeared the Eastbourne Herald on Saturday 16th December 1944. Liddell took up painting in 1942 at the age of 75.

The painting must date from between 1942 and 1958.

Bill Ellson,

Good find, but as above Guy Liddell died 1 Jul 1954.

As well as the information in the Eastbourne Herald the signature on a 1911 census return (attached) matches the portrait of Tedder, so it is clear who we dealing with.

Guy was the second son of merchant William Byam Liddell 1836 - 1901 and Jane Maclure 30 Dec 1840 - 18 Apr 1917, William and Jane had married in Madras 24 Mar 1863.

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Osmund Bullock,

'Own work' in the Wiki context is only a copyright statement - it usually just means that the image is a photo taken by the uploader him/herself of an artwork or similar that is, or is believed to be out of copyright or otherwise in the public domain.

In this case, however, the uploader 'Robitsju' is probably the grandson of the artist - for the confusing inscription on the black-and-white drawing in fact says, 'Leo Arthur Robitschek / Jerusalem 1942'. The mistaken reading of the first word as 'Sir' was also made by the author of a 2004 biography of Tedder - see attached - and even the ODNB entry for Tedder calls the artist 'A. Robitschek', presumably from the same error.

Liddell's portrait could easily have been based on Robitschek's much superior portrait drawing of 1942, or he may have copied it from the Cairo photograph, which is by Cecil Beaton. And as the biography I link to below explains, the Robitschek portrait itself would have been drawn using a sophisticated type of 3-D photo-assistance developed by the artist.

[Not directly relevant now, but Leo Arthur Robitschek was born at Vienna in 1893. In the mid-1930s he settled in British-Mandate Palestine, and over the next decade or so produced some 600 portrait drawings of the upper echelons of Levantine society, notably a large number of senior British officers and administrators, both resident and passing through, during WWII. Soon after the war, and before the foundation of Israel, he moved with his wife and son to Venezuela and died at Caracas in 1961. See - scroll down for crude English translation.]

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Thanks for the explantion of the likeness of the likenesses: a characteristicaly intriguing Art UK sidelight in a case where the artist(s) have emerged as more interesting than the painting quality of the portrait - though creditable for an amateur start at 75. This looks like a case of 'problem solved' unless anyone can produce further examples of the Colonel's work.

Kieran Owens,

Sorry Pieter, that was a 2am slip of attention. The line should, of course, have read:

"The painting must date from between 1942 and 1954."

Kieran Owens,

And the above is a 10.15am slip. Sorry about that Bill.

Alan Waltham,

Thank you all for so many interesting pieces of information. Pieter van der Merwe enquired regarding other examples of Guy Liddell's work. I have attached a painting by him of "Crail Harbour".

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Alan Waltham,

Following on from all this recent activity here I have looked back at my old e-mail correspondence from the time (July/August 2016) & I have come across this from Grant Waters who is the author of "Dictionary of British Artists Working 1900 to 1950":-

"I have been doing some more research on As far as I can tell from various searches, there is only one Guy Liddell recorded on the UK registers, namely Guy Maynard Liddell, CB, CBE, MC, born in London W1 in 1892 and died on 2nd December 1958 in Chelsea. Probate of his will was granted on 5th February 1959 to David Edward Liddell, a retired Army Captain (his younger brother) and Archibald Louis Hugh Carter, a solicitor. His estate was £23,258. Of the hundreds of other Liddells listed in the 20th century none that I can see had the name Guy.

In addition to Ancestry I have also searched the databases of a number of art auction sites, including Invaluable and ArtPrice, and there is no record of anything having been sold by Guy Liddell or even a G Liddell, or indeed mentioning Guy Liddell as a sitter or owner etc. In view of the absence of examples apart from the Tedder portrait and the one of Crail, which I haven't yet found, Liddell seems to have had very little output. My feeling is that he is a self taught artist and occasional painter.

I'll look further to see if there is evidence that his path crossed with that of (Lord) Arthur Tedder. They were both Companions of the Order of the Bath so may have met at an event for members of the Order. Both lived in south west London on occasions at about the same time so could also have met socially. But hard evidence is difficult to find." With thanks to Grant Waters.

Louis Musgrove,

Something funny here-coincidence wise.Liddel at 36 Buckingham Gate in 1911.
34 Buckingham Gate involved in the Russian Spy Ring that MI5 Liddell investigated.And also Macartney the spy was living at Buckingham Gate when he went bankrupt. Just an example of totally unrelated similarities.

Louis Musgrove,

Reading Kierans Newspaper cutting. Whilst at the Slade ,Guy said the the DoodleBugs were somewhat trying!!! ( Delightful !) It also says he concentrated on doing paintings of soldiers killed in the War- so there must be a few about somewhere.Oh -and several copies of his painting of FM Montgomery.

Kieran Owens,

Alan, perhaps you might not have seen at the attachment in my posting from 02/05/2021 02:01 above, in which is mentioned Liddell's portrait of 'Monty' and his connection to Sir Arthur Tedder. It also states that "Much of Col. Liddell's art activities consists of painting from the portraits of men who have lost their lives in the war", suggesting that he was possibly using existing images (such as photographs) of his subjects as the basis for his own paintings.

On the 14th May 1905, in Madras, aged 36 and an engineer, Liddell was initiated into the Pitt Macdonald Lodge of Freemasons. If he had spent his early adult life in India, up until at least 1905, this would explain why he does not appear in any UK census between 1871 and 1901. Nor does he appear in the UK's 1911 Census.

However, his entry (attached) on the 1939 Register places him as living at Palmers Green House, Taunton, Somerset, and as having been born on the 8th November 1868. He was living there with his second wife, Lydia, who was born on the 11th August 1873, and from whom he must have subsequently separated or divorced. Their marriage might have taken place in India, as it does not appear in the UK registers. She died in Newton Abbott, in Devon, in 1954. He had previously married Margaret Sands, daughter of W. J. Sands, in July 1894 and married his third wife, the American-born Bertha Mercer (née Langwill) (the former wife or widow of Ernest Mercer), in Eastbourne in 1946. As Liddell's widow, her name appears on his death certificate. She died in Perth, Scotland, in 1980.

Regarding his parentage, Liddell's death certificate states that he was the son of Henry Liddell, a Tea Planter, and his wife Jane McElure (sic) but Henry might have been a familiar name for his father (or an error on the entry), as he was definitely Willam Byam Liddell's son. Liddell's elder brother was Major General Sir William Andrew Liddell (1865-1949). His father's marriage announcement, from the Glasgow Herald of 1st May 1863 and his death notice, from the Madras Weekly Mail of Thursday 31st October 1901, are attached.

According to a letter by Liddell, which was published in the Dundee Courier on the 21st February 1950, he was "an enthusiastic member of the Lanarkshire Bicycle Club."

• Artist

Guy Liddell (1868 - 1954)

Kieran Owens,

Thanks to Louis I have found Guy Liddell on the 1911 Census. Posting to follow.

Kieran Owens,

The attached items show the 1873 birth registration in Dublin of Lydia Catherine Little and also her marriage, aged 34, to Guy Liddell, then aged 35, which ceremony took place at St. Ann's Church of Ireland church, Dawson Street, Dublin.

On that marriage certificate Liddell is described as a bachelor. However, in the Morning Post, of Tuesday 5th June 1894, the following notice appeared:

"A marriage has been arranged, and will take place in July, between Mr. Guy Liddell, second son of Mr. W. B. Liddell, of 59, Inverness Terrace, and Margaret, youngest daughter of the late Mr. W. J. Sands and of Mrs. Sands, 28, Roland Gardens."

This marriage does not appear in the UK registration records and so either did not happen or did not happen in the UK.

Several years later, a marriage announcement appeared in the Court & Society column of the Dublin Daily Express of Saturday 9th May 1908:

"A wedding has been arranged and is to take place on Monday 29th June between Guy, second son of the late W. B. Liddell, of Liddellsdale, Nilgiris, South India, and of Mrs. Liddell, 17, Moscow Court, London, and Lydia Katherine, only daughter of James Little, M.D., Regius Professor of Physics, University of Dublin, and of Mrs. Little, of 14, St. Stephen's Green North."

Bill Ellson,

Osmund - Four paragraphs! Robitschek and Liddell are different people, end of.

Alan - The email from Grant Walters was plain wrong. Guy Liddell appears in English census records
1871 - Ryde, IOW
1881 - Portsea, Hampshire
1891 - Middlesborough, Yorkshire
1911 - Buckingham Gate

The only English census Guy does not appear on was 1901. That census was taken on 1 April, Liddell was in Cuba.

Note English census, although the census was conducted throughout the British Isles on the same day, in the same format, the records are separately indexed etc.
Birth, Marriage and Death registration systems in Ireland and Scotland were different and separate from England and Wales.

Kieran - When Guy died, his parents details were probably not at the forefront of Bertha's mind. She may not have realised that a Scottish Registrar would ask for such information until she was registering the death (on the day it occurred). 'Henry' and 'McElure' are understandable mistakes.

Kieran Owens,

Thank you Bill, and I stand seriously corrected. I cannot understand, however, why his presence in those pre-1901 census returns did not appear when I originally searched for them.

And you are probably correct about Bertha. 45 years had passed between William Byam Liddell's death in 1901 and Bertha marrying Guy in 1946, so there is no reason to assume that she knew much about him or Guy's mother, for that matter.

Osmund Bullock,

There's no need to be *quite* so rude, Bill. I acknowledged that the fourth para of my post (the short biog of Robitschek) was rather tangential to the main theme; but many of the discussions on AD contain similar digressions into the lives of connected persons, and as long as they don't go off too far and for too long they are generally welcome.

I explained what 'own work' means in the first para as you seemed to be suggesting it was evidence that the drawing was by the person who posted it on wikimedia, which it isn't. The second and third paras (or most of them) were even more relevant, as in my view they were needed to demonstrate (a) that the black and white drawing was definitely not by Liddell, and (b) that it is very likely the image that Liddell copied in his portrait - see attached. It might be interesting to see if the right Liddell had a more direct connection to Tedder (in Scotland, perhaps?) that might explain how he got access to the Robitschek portrait (if he did)...or had it already been published before the 2004 biography?

Oh, and it it is Grant Waters, not Walters; he is a much-respected Group Leader on here, actually, but like all of us is not infallible.

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S. Elin Jones,

These may help a little with confirmation of some of the discussion above, and add a little more information with regards to his military career.

Attached is his register of baptism from Madras and his WW1 medal index card.

Guy Liddell also served in the Intelligence Corps, Royal Engineers as well as on the general list of staff in WW1. In 1921 he was using the Jr Carlton Club as his correspondance address.

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Bill Ellson,

Elin - The Madras Baptism register is a curiosity. I suspect the register available online is a transcript covering St George's cathedral and at least two other churches (St Andrew's and St Mary's).

The medal card is unusual in showing the award of the 1914 / 1915 without a date for when GL entered a 'theatre of war'.
(I would interpret the GHQ reference as GL being a Royal Engineer staff officer at Montreuil-sur-Mer.)

This is for Bill Ellson (3.5.21 01.24 above) who writes:

'Guy Liddell appears in English census records
1871 - Ryde, IOW
1881 - Portsea, Hampshire
1891 - Middlesborough, Yorkshire
1911 - Buckingham Gate

The only English census Guy does not appear on was 1901. That census was taken on 1 April, Liddell was in Cuba.'

Could you add detail to these references, or post-up the entries please?: E.g. addresses, who was head of household, (if his father was tea-planting in India), occupation (presumably 'school' in 1881 at least) etc?

Liddell attached, more or less in order: more notable as an engineer than an artist by some distance I suggest - though it would be interesting to see more of his oil landscapes if the one produced by the original questioner, Alan Waltham (@ 02/05/2021 10:45) is indicative.

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Denis Mollison,

Guy Liddell (1868-1954) was a cousin of my great-grandfather William Walker (1849-97) and I have plenty of information on his ancestry and relations. My Aunt Anne (Anne Mayhew Powell, nee Mollison, 1919-2016) used to stay with the Liddells in Pitlochry when on holidays in the Highlands - he was known in our family as `cousin Guy'.

Scott Herbertson,

Here is a bookplate of Bertha Liddell nee Mercer (see signature with address as Fonab cottage ) on a Pitlochry history book

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Though not formally my call, I suggest this discussion closes. Liddell was clearly an able man whose painting was a late-life 'amateur' occupation. His landscape work (from the example attached by Alan Waltham at 02/05/2021 10:4) looks more interesting than his photo-derived WWII commemorative portraits - of which that of Tedder is his sole work on Art UK. While it's good to hear there is some living memory of him as per Denis Mollison, 27/08/2021 21:48) nothing more specific has been added and I suggest we alrady have more than enough to wrap this up.

Osmund Bullock,

Of course it's up to the Collection, but I would recommend a change to the sitter's name in the title, which is not of a correct form. It should really be something like [Marshall of the RAF] [Sir] Arthur William Tedder, 1st Baron Tedder (1890-1967), though one or both of the parts in square brackets could be be omitted for brevity's sake.

I also think it would be reasonable to add "after Leo Arthur Robitschek (1893-1961)" to the artist line, along with Liddell's dates, though some may find that more contentious.