Topic: Subject or sitter

In 1936 the artist exhibited a C. Wolstenholme at the Salon des Artistes Francais in Paris as no 2297. Was this sitter a different member of the Wolstenholme family? Or was there a mistake as to the initial? [Group leader: Grant Waters]

Martin Hopkinson, Entry reviewed by Art UK

Completed, Outcome

This discussion is now closed. The title has been amended to ‘F. Wolstenholme, Esq. (probably Frederick Wolstenholme, 1852–1931, retired railwayman from Derby).

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: ‘We have just run a quick search through some local newspapers of the period to try and find out more about this gentleman. We see that the exhibition of the portrait at the Paris Salon is mentioned in the Derby Daily Telegraph on Tuesday 13 October 1936, where it is described as showing C. Wolstenholme, 'a well-known Sheffield business man'. So we think it may be fair to conclude that the initial given on our records is incorrect, rather than the catalogue entry for the exhibition. We’ve been through the photocopy we have of Townsend’s studio diary but cannot see any mention of the Wolstenholme portrait. We are happy for this to be opened for public discussion, as this may help us find out more about Wolstenholme.'

Cliff Thornton,

Assuming that the sitter was still alive in 1939, I consulted the England Register for that year. I could not find any aged Wolstenholmes in Sheffield with the initial C. However, on looking for a Thomas Wolstenholme, a Sheffield business man, aged about 70, there was only one, an established saw and knife manufacturer b.1869.

Jacob Simon,

Judging from the paintings on Art UK, the artist, Ernest Townsend (1885–1944), on the one hand painted various rather safe civic portraits and on the other, perhaps more congenial to him, a range of more atmospheric, even aesthetic, landscapes, interiors and other subjects.

Our portrait does not fit the general run of his portraiture. Instead, it is as much a portrait of an interior as of a man. Two works of art are shown in the background, one a small drawing or print, the other larger and probably a painting. Both have white or very pale frames which stand apart from the gilt frames of the period and indicate a certain taste. So was our man a collector as well as a businessman?

Marcie Doran,

On Ancestry, there are no obvious links to that family, Andrew.

I am interested in the fact that the Townsend family still owned this work in 1944. The article in the ‘Derby Daily Telegraph’, attached, had called it a “presentation portrait”. Can we rule out the wealthy cotton broker Charles Mellor Wolstenholme (1860-1947)?

Osmund Bullock,

A higher-res view of the sitter's face would be helpful - at first glance he looks to me more than c.66-67, unless pretty unwell. And if the Thomas Wolstenholme suggested is Thos Gilbert W (1869-1950), then a photo uploaded of him here on Geni would seem (if correctly identified) to rule him out: https://bit.ly/34kUtPz. The photo shows TGW (we hope) aged no less than 50, I'd have thought; and his jacket style suggests a date in the 1930s or later, when TGW was actually in his 60s+.

Marcie Doran,

Was the Exhibition of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters referenced in the 1936 article the one from 1935? The Paris Salon was October 10 - November 11, 1936. In 1936, the Exhibition of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters seems to have been in November 1936.

If so, the attached article in the ‘Derby Daily Telegraph’ of November 19, 1935, which is part of a larger write-up that discusses Townsend, might be relevant. It states that the sitters in Townsend’s two works for the Exhibition of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters were “his London patrons”.

Bill Ellson,

C. Wolstenholme 'a well-known Sheffield business man' could be Cyril Wolstenholme.

Cyril's father Francis Fanshaw Wolstenholme born 26 May 1868, died 8 Apr 1936 was "head of the firm of Messrs W.B. Wolstenholme Ltd, ivory merchants, 71 Carver Street, Sheffield". Although the attached press clipping (Sheffield Independent 11 April 1936) reporting Francis's death refers to Cyril as "a well known Sheffield tenor", the 1939 Register (also attached) describes him as a "Sales ?? Director. Ivory Celluloid cutlery handles.". In 1939 Cyril (born 4 Sep 1896) was living in Dronfield, Derbyshire to the south of Sheffield.

I cannot see a T Wolstenholme in the immediate family, but handwritten Fs and Ts often get confused and I wonder if the sitter might be Francis Fanshaw Wolstenholme.

Another good find Marcie. It certainly looks more like a man of 79 than one of 67/8, which is what F. F. Wolstenholme was at death, or a year or so younger if its the portrait shown in 1935, but I suspect only finding a photo or other likenesses of FFW is likely to help if an F and T have become confused.

That said, the elegant suiting (nor the rather ascetic/aesthetic 'Whistler's Mother' setting doesn't look appropriate to a man whos left effects of under £180 and whose executor was a glass-bottle blower.

Charles Mellor Wolstenholme (1860-1947) would also have been 75/76 in 1935/6 but, since he lived to 1947, any 1935/6 'presentation portrait' of him as 'C. Wolstenholme' is not likely to have been still in Townsend's hands at his own death in 1944.

Jacinto Regalado,

The setting of the portrait need not be the sitter's home. It could be that of the painter.

As Pieter points out, as the work remained in the possession of the artist's widow after Ernest Townsend's death it would appear not to have been a portrait commission and it seems it wasn't 'presented' at all to the sitter or anyone else.

The Derby Daily Telegraph article on Tuesday 13 October 1936 refers clearly to the sitter being C. Wolstenholme, 'a well-known Sheffield business man'. It also refers to the painting having been exhibited in 1935 with the Royal Society of Portrait Painters. If it was exhibited there, Marcie must be correct in identifying the title as 'An Old Man' (who may have been C. Wolstenholme but not named as such) as the second painting shown there at the RP in 1935 by Ernest Townsend was of 'W. Manderson Esq'.

I take it that the painting does not have a label or inscription verso with title, date etc? Presumably the title recorded by the collection is the one they obtained from Mrs Townsend on acquisition in 1944? If not, it would help enormously if the collection could clarify a little further how the painting was documented on entering the collection.

I think there is enough evidence to suggest that the sitter is unlikely to be 'C. Wolstenholme' (see Pieter's comments above). It seems the 'Wolstenholme' portrait (whether C or T) doesn't appear in the artist's diary, which leads me to wonder if the sitter is someone from outside that family.

Osmund Bullock,

This is all extremely confusing and hard to reconcile, and there must be significant mistakes, misunderstandings or deliberately misleading information in the facts supplied to or by the Derby Daily Telegraph in Oct 1936 (and/or Nov 1935) and/or the Paris Salon in 1936, not to mention the Collection's records.

Martin, as a first step to trying to ascertain what's true and what isn't, could you please clarify at *which* 1936 Paris Salon the portrait of 'C. Wolstenholme' was exhibited, and have you seen an original catalogue or does the information come from another source?

The 13 Oct date of the 1936 newspaper story suggests it was (as Marcie notes) the one that ran from 10 Oct - 11 Nov that year, that of the Société du Salon d'automne - see https://bit.ly/3rcccBJ. But it's just possible, I suppose, that story actually referred to one of the Salons earlier in the year - that of the Société des artistes indépendants (Feb-Mar), the Salon des Tuileries (May-July), or those of the Société nationale des Beaux-arts and the Société des artistes français which ran alongside each other in the same building in May-Jun - it is the last of these, incidentally, that is normally meant when one just refers to 'the Paris Salon', as it was the Société des artistes français who took over the organisation of the old Académie Salon when the government ceased its official sponsorship in 1881.

I don't think we can dismiss a Wolstenholme family member yet - that would mean we think the newspaper report, the Paris Salon catalogue *and* the Collection's acquisition record are all completely wrong!

Martin Hopkinson,

I am sorry I am stuck an hour and half plus from a useful library and will be for some time - but I suspect thatmy information comes from a french volume on British paintings exhibited at the Paris Salons , of which I will try and cover the exact details. I am fairly immobile at the moment
Of course all over France Salons were held every year at this period, some at fairly small towns!

Martin Hopkinson,

Beatrice Crespon-Halotier, Les peintres Britanniques dans les Salons Parisiens des origines a 1939, 2004
There are copies in the National Art Library and in the Paul Mellon Centre for British Art Bloomsbury Square

Osmund, I agree completely that we shouldn't dismiss the Wolstenholme connection. But I think we should be open to the possibility that the sitter may be someone unrelated to that family.

In regard to the newspaper article, it will may well be the case that a junior reporter has 'scribbled' some notes about Ernest Townsend during an interview. The exact details of what was exhibited, when and where, may have been written up later with uncorrected inaccuracies on publication.

I think given the circumstances, this is one of those instances where a physical inspection of the painting and frame (if there is one) would be of considerable assistance in helping to identify the sitter and the title of the work. Presumably Mrs Townsend sold the painting to Derby Museums not long after her husband's death in 1944. We don't know how well acquainted Mrs Townsend was with her husband's portraits and the sitters. She probably knew that the Wolstenholmes were clients. If, as reported, the painting was exhibited at the Royal Society of Portrait Painters and at a Paris Salon, and assuming the work remains in original condition, surely there must be exhibition labels verso? If just some exhibition numbers that would help us greatly especially if those numbers were either 64 'W. Manderson ESq' or 136 'An Old Man', both shown at the RP late in 1935. If the work proves to be one of those two, I will gladly supply photographic copies of the relevant pages of the RP catalogue 1935 for the record.

Jacob Simon,

On Tuesday I'll try to consult Beatrice Crespon-Halotier, Les peintres Britanniques dans les Salons Parisiens des origines a 1939, 2004, flagged above.

Marcie Doran,

Please see this article from the ‘Derby Daily Telegraph’ of April 11, 1934. Since ‘W. Manderson Esqr.' was also shown by Townsend, perhaps this was the “unnamed portrait” at the “sixth annual exhibition of the London Portrait Society”.

Osmund Bullock,

Should Jacob not manage it, I may also be able to consult Crespon-Halotier at the NAL on Wednesday (the only day of the week they're currently open). I have two items ordered there relating to the Cheremisinova bust, and will add 'Les peintre Britanniques...' just in case. However, I'm having some minor surgery tomorrow morning, and it's possible I may not be up to art historical delving two days later...

Osmund Bullock,

Right, it's ordered; I've also requested the third volume of P. Sanchez & O. Meslay 'Dictionnaire du Salon d'automne 1903-1945...' (2006) - this seems to be a full alphabetical list of exhibitors and their works.

Osmund Bullock,

Good find, Marcie. Unfortunately I can only find library holdings of London Portrait Soc. exhibition catalogues (which were part-illustrated) for 1928-31 & 1937-39 (at the NAL), plus two odd ones, 1933 & 1935 at the Courtauld. Frustrating.

Marcie Doran,

I’ve had no luck finding W. Manderson. I’m wondering if he was from London (29/01/2022 01:41), Derby or Sheffield. It might help to solve the conflicting articles. Take care tomorrow, Osmund.

Jacob Simon,

On Tuesday I'll also try to consult "London Portrait Soc." catalogues, flagged above, if I have time.

Osmund Bullock,

Thank you, Marcie, though it's the really the vascular surgeon I need to take care...

I've been searching for two days for suitable Wxx Mandersons of *any* age *anywhere* (including those with a 'W' middle name) without success - or at least no-one of (as far as one can tell) modest wealth or obvious artistic connections has come to light. But that 'Esquire' does suggest a man who was or could pass as a man of at least some substance.

In fact, so puzzling are the blanks all are drawing here that I'm beginning to wonder if Townsend liked to give his sitters pseudonyms.

Osmund Bullock,

Thanks, David. It's pretty odd seen closer up, and seems a rather slapdash bit of portraiture - the moustache looks as if it's pasted on off-centre. I can't really see this as a commissioned presentation portrait - as Jacob noted some days ago, "Our portrait does not fit the general run of [Townsend's] portraiture. Instead, it is as much a portrait of an interior as of a man". I can see it being titled 'An Old Man', but now have doubts that the sitter's identity was ever meant to be of great relevance. Could Townsend's widow have just guessed at it from something she'd heard or found in his papers...and perhaps even embellished the details to make it more saleable?

Osmund Bullock,

Oh, and my procedure today has been postponed and rescheduled for Wednesday, so I won't be able to make it to the NAL until their next open day, February 9th.

Jacob Simon,

Reports back.

Ernest Townsend exhibited at the Salon of the Societe des artistes français in 1936, no. 2297, “C. Wolstenholme Esq. (illustration)”. However, I do not have access to the original catalogue to seek an illustration. Source: Beatrice Crespon-Halotier, Les peintres Britanniques dans les Salons Parisiens des origines a 1939, 2004.

Townsend exhibited at the Royal Society of Portrait Painters in 1935 (not 1936), as we know, no. 64, W. Manderson, Esq, and no. 136, An Old Man. Source: the original exhibition catalogue.

Osmund Bullock,

Thank you, Jacob. So in Paris it was exhibited not in the autumn, but in May-June 1936: https://bit.ly/3GgUTUd. Not that the date makes much difference - but at least I can cross off the Salon d'automne artists dictionary.

If it really is illustrated that is excellent news. I don't think I saw a copy listed in the more obvious UK libraries (nor in the BNF/Gallica), but it's worth double-checking now we know exactly which Salon we're interested in. The Bibliothèque Kandinsky in Paris clearly has one, but there are doubtless others in France. Does anyone have good contacts over there...Marion?

Osmund Bullock,

I was quite wrong - I think I must only have looked for the Salon d'automne catalogue. There is in fact a copy of the catalogue of the 1936 Salon of the Societe des artistes français (which has 172 pages of plates) in the Courtauld Library at Vernon Square (King's Cross): https://bit.ly/34hw6T9.

Independent researchers can access the library by booking in advance; so unless anyone else is planning a visit soon anyway, I will shortly try and book a session there late next week or early the next.

S. Elin Jones,

Is it possible for the collection to confirm as to whether they have had an opportunity to check the back of the painting for labels or information please?
Do the collection (or their county archives) have access to a copy of a catalogue of the Ernest Townsend Memorial Exhibition held at Derby Corporation Art Gallery in 1944?

Ernest Townsend died in January of 1944. By May of that year, Derby Corporation Art Gallery had already started preparations in anticipation of holding a memorial exhibition dedicated to the work of Ernest Townsend. This exhibition was to be held in the gallery between the 7th of October and the 2nd December, 1944. Early expectations were that there would be approximately 60 paintings in the show, and requests had been published in the newspapers asking for examples of artwork painted by Ernest Townsend in private ownership, in the hope that they would be included in the exhibition. Additional artwork would also be included from the studio of the artist.

i) A Derby Art Exhibition -
The Yorkshire Post and Leeds Mercury, 26 May, 1944
“…it seems likely that some of your readers may possess works of this artist which they would be willing to loan for this memorial exhibition.
I should be grateful if such persons would communicate with me….”
A. L. Thorpe, Curator.
Museum and Art Gallery, Derby.

ii) Townsend Memorial Exhibition -
Derby Evening Telegraph, 29 May, 1944
“It is hoped that others will be made available, so that with a selection of works from Mr. Townsend’s studio, there will be more than 60 on view”
i) A Derby Art Exhibition ii) Townsend Memorial Exhibition

If the collection had bought at least two paintings by Ernest Townsend from his widow in 1944, could these portraits have been included in the retrospective exhibition that they held in his memory between October and December of that year?
Could the opportunity of being able to purchase these paintings from Mrs Townsend have arisen due to their inclusion in the exhibition?
Could there be a reference to them in the catalogue?

The other portrait was “The Refugee”.

iii) Townsend Memorial Exhibition -
Derby Daily Telegraph, 29 May, 1944

A copy of the catalogue of the Ernest Townsend Memorial Exhibition is held in the archives of the British Library. It is described as having 16 pages [With plates].
iv) A memorial exhibition of the works of the late Ernest Townsend

An example of the label attached to the artwork from the exhibition can be seen on the reverse of ’Dunkirk’ in the collection of The National Trust, ‘Chartwell’ in Kent. The artist is believed to have “commenced” the painting in January of 1941, but it had remained unsold. I think it’s possible that this could be an example of one of the artworks from Ernest Townsend’s studio.
v) Dunkirk 63 Label, Chartwell, Ernest Townsend Memorial Exhibition

Townsend Memorial Exhibition,
7th October to 2nd December 1944
Lender’s name - Mrs E. Townsend
Address - Coxbench
Title of Picture - Dunkirk
Catalogue No - 63


Other paintings that may also have been exhibited at the Ernest Townsend Memorial Exhibition:
Thomas Charles Simmonds - Ernest Townsend Memorial Exhibition

Lord Roe, no. 51 - Ernest Townsend Memorial exhibition

Nasturtiams 103 - Ernest Townsend Memorial exhibition

Derby has not yet said if it has a copy of the 1944 catalogue -it would be odd not to - or whether the portrait bears the same label as 'v' above showing it was included: could both be checked?.

Derby Museums and Art Gallery,

Hello to you all,

Apologies for the delay - I can confirm that the painting was included among the works exhibited in 1944, as 'T. Wolstenholme, Esq.' (cat. 42).

At some point this week I hope to be able to get into the off-site store where this painting is currently being kept. We haven't been able to get access recently due to some maintenance works which overran, but it was handed back to us by the contractors and our landlords last week. I'll let you know if there are any labels or inscriptions of note as soon as I can.

Thank you for your help with this little conundrum.

Osmund Bullock,

Richard, though the Collection's response (thank you, Derby) probably removes the necessity, since I am going to the NAL tomorrow anyway, I will add it to my list of requests.

The 1944 cataloguing of it as 'T. Wolstenholme, Esq' explains how it acquired its specific current title. But since it must have been lent (and subsequently sold) by Mrs Townsend, it remains possible that her information was incorrect - in whole or part, deliberately or not - and/or that she or the exhibition's curators confused it with another work.

I am also now booked in for a session on Wed 16th at the Courtauld Library to look at the 1936 Paris Salon catalogue and its listing of 'C. Wolstenholme Esq'; let us hope that throws light on this perplexing matter, which it must surely do if it is illustrated.

Jacob, you talked at one point (30/01/2022 15:59) about trying to consult the London Portrait Society catalogues if you had time; but did that mean you had at at least found a full run of them somewhere (and especially the elusive 1934), or did you actually mean those of the RP?

Jacob Simon,

Osmund, I think that I thought that your reference to the London Portrait Society was to the RP.

Osmund Bullock,

Thanks, Jacob. More in hope than useful expectation, I will also be looking at the London Portrait Society's catalogues for 1933 & 1935 at the Courtauld Library on 16th Feb.

If anyone spots a copy of their 1934 exhibition catalogue (the 6th) listed anywhere, do please shout.

Jacob Simon,

The NPG apparently holds 1st--4th (1928-1931); 5th-8th (1933-1936). I can look on Tuesday 15th if wished.

Martin Hopkinson,

Was there not a rival exhibiting society in London too involving moe 'advanced' artists, for which there is a run of cataogues in the NAL? Particularly active in the 1920s - I do not know how long it lasted - possibly 'modern' was in its title?

Osmund Bullock,

Can't believe I missed that, Jacob. I'll still look at the 1933 & 1935 ones at the Cortauld - they took so much trouble I'd be embarrassed to cancel the request - but if you're going to be at the Heinz on Tuesday anyway, feel free to as well...and yes, do please look especially at the one for 1934 (the 6th) that apparently included Townsend's portrait of the mysterious W. Manderson (as in the RP 1935), as well as another unnamed (but perhaps the RP's 'An Old Man').

The Collection has commented: 'Good morning sleuths! I managed to get into the store this morning and can confirm that there are no labels or inscriptions on the back of the painting. A plaque to the frame recto duplicates the information we already have, including the identification of the sitter as T. Wolstenholme. Looking at it, I would say that the plaque could very probably have been added when the painting came into the museum, so this doesn't help us much I'm afraid.'

The comments of the Collection are much appreciated. Personally, I think that as their painting has no evidence of inscriptions or exhibition labels, it may well not be the exhibited painting referred to by the Derby Daily Telegraph in their article of Tuesday 13 October 1936. This leads me back to Cliff Thornton's post on 28th January who had found reference in the 1939 England & Wales Register to a 'Thomas Wolstenholme, a Sheffield business man, aged about 70, an established saw and knife manufacturer b.1869'. It seems the case that a 'T. Wolstenholme' was identified as the sitter at the time the painting was acquired and thus I think we should try to obtain further information about him in order to deal with the principal question posed in this discussion. In so doing I believe we should try to resolve the background to the portrait referred to in the newspaper article from 1936 and establish details about the sitter 'C. Wolstenholme'. Perhaps a relative of 'T. Wolstenholme'? Is he the 'wealthy cotton broker Charles Mellor Wolstenholme (1860-1947)' mentioned by Marcie Doran on 28th January?

Jacob Simon,

Osmund has encouraged me to look at the London Portrait Society catalogues in the NPG library (his post, 08/02/2022 19:35), in particular for 1934 (the 6th). It does indeed include Townsend's portrait of W. Manderson, as well a ‘Portrait study’.

Osmund Bullock,

Thanks, Jacob - I assume both are unillustrated, and with no further detail such as medium or size given?

I did make it to the NAL last week, and saw there (inter alia) the catalogue of the 1944 Townsend Memorial exhibition. We've already been told by Derby that 'T. Wolstenholme Esq' was included; but in fact there is much else of interest and relevance that clarifies some of our questions. Tomorrow I'm going to the Courtauld Library at King's Cross to see the 1936 Paris Salon catalogue. Once I've seen that (including, I hope, an ilustration of the 'C. Wolstenholme' portrait exhibited there) I'll try and draw the various threads together. As a taster, though, the Memorial exhibition contained 120 works, nearly one-third of which (39) seem to have been lent by Townsend's widow and were for sale. As well as 'T. Wolstenholme Esq' (no.42), they included our old friends 'W. Manderson Esq' (79) and 'Portrait of an Old Man' (91) - however the last is listed as a pastel, so would seem to be out of the running.

I have images of many of the catalogue's pages, some of them illustrated. Would the Collection (who presumably hold the copyright) object if I post some of them here?

Well done again Marcie! An old LMS railwayman looking like a prosperous entrepreneur, though no doubt a very respectable citizen of Derby: then very much a railway-works town (inter alia) and the old station - which was pretty grand (at least to my fairly local childhood memory) until knocked down for the utilitarian modern one - was (and is) also off the London Road within easy walk of the Liversage Trust Almhouses.

It may therefore be the R. Soc. of Portrait Painters no. 136 of 1935 'An Old Man' then re-exhibited accidentally as 'T. Wolstenholme Esq.' in 1944 - but if the RP work would also have to have been painted before 1931. Being a painting of a model, not a commissioned sitter, at least explains why the canvas stayed with the artist, whenever painted.

Osmund Bullock,

I'll still look at the Paris Salon catalogue, but little or nothing from the 1944 exhibition is really relevant any more. Well done, Marcie. Funnily enough Bill Ellson (29/01/2022 05:37) was sort of on the right track when he suggested that "handwritten Fs and Ts often get confused"; but he, like the rest of us, was looking for a business man living in 1936. But was it just a matter of confused Fs & Ts (and perhaps Cs)? I'm beginning to think there may have been some deliberate obfuscation on Townsend's part. Let's see what tomorrow brings...

The fly still in the ointment is the very specific Derby Evening Telegraph report of 13 October 1936 (Marcie Doran, 28/01/2022 18:02) but re-linked here:


If it is accurate it shows he did exhibit a 'presentation portrait of Mr. C. Wolstenholme' of Sheffield at the Salon in 1936 and implies that it was also the 'Old Man' at the RP in 1935, though I now see that Osmund ( 16/02/2022 01:44) suggests that was a pastel that was also in the 1944 show.

If our oil 'old man' is in fact Frederick W. sitting just as a model pr-193i (and is not the RP 'Old Man' of 1935) then the 1936 D.E.T report either represents an odd and confusing coincidence, or is otherwise adrift: or we may still be.

It looks as though some local collection publicity in the Derby/ Nottingham area might find grandchidren or other relatives of Frederick W., the 'model (ex-) railwayman'. An enquiry to the Liversage Trust would also elicit what sort of tenancy archive exists there. A photo of some sort would nail it.

Derby Museums and Art Gallery,

Hi there,

With Osmund having now clarified that the 'Old Man' is a pastel, rather than an oil, I was immediately put in mind of a pastel in DM's collection called 'Head of an Old Man'. I checked the record earlier and I see that it was purchased from the Memorial Exhibition of 1944. I don't have a copy of the exhibition catalogue to hand, but if that is the only 'Old Man' in pastel shown, that would seem to nail that down. From memory, he is quite different to Wolstenholme, but I will try and get a snap on my phone on Friday to help confirm it one way or another.

Alison Golding,

The clothes look to me like Sunday best for the respectable (active in his church, so very respectable) working man, and easily confused in the generality with those of the professional classes - other than the boots, which are definitely a working man's wear.

Osmund Bullock,

Thanks, Derby. More of the 1944 Memorial Exhibition in a minute.

Well unsurprisingly (at least to me), the portrait of 'C. Wolstenholme Esqre' exhibited at the May-June 1936 Paris Salon (SAF) was indeed the same portrait. See attached.

I suppose this could all be the result of errors or misunderstandings by the Société des artistes français, by the Oct 1936 Derby Ev. Telegraph journalist (multiple ones), *and* by Townsend's widow to boot...but that's an awful lot of mistakes to believe in. And to give the retired railway worker and occasional model Fred Wolstenholme an 'esquire' to his name sounds equally suspicious. I still tend towards the view that Townsend, for whatever reason, likely mixed truth with fiction in his titles and the stories he fed to the papers. Perhaps he wanted it to look as if his commissioned portrait business was busier than it actually was, in order to attract more clients - amongst the works previously exhibited, and apparently still with the artist when he died, there is also the elusive 'W. Manderson Esq', plus another ditto, a certain 'Charles Beaumont Esq' whose portrait had previously been shown at the London Portrait Society in 1933. Or perhaps Ernest just had a mischievous streak, and liked to play games with the press, and the great & good of Derby, by elevating his model(s) to a higher social status, complete with back story. We'll never know.

1 attachment
Osmund Bullock,

I have prepared a pdf (attached) of the catalogue of the 1944 show (only the text - illustrations omitted) - apologies for the variable quality of the images. Derby, if you'd rather that wasn't shown here, do please say so - the AD team can take it down and edit this post.

There were in fact 122 works shown in 1944. Those 39 that do not have a lender mentioned in the catalogue were for sale, and I think can safely be assumed to have belonged to Ernest Townsend's widow. Two of these (oils) seem to have been purchased by Derby Art Gallery, and remain in their collection on Art UK: 'Refugee' (no.12) & our portrait of Wolstenholme (42). Plus the pastel, 'Portrait of an Old Man' (91), and perhaps others that weren't oils. At least two more are in their collection today, but were donated at a later date, probably by the buyers in 1944: 'Willows and Weeds' (17) & Summer Morning - Interior' (69).

DAG lent 16 of their own paintings - most are still held by them, but puzzlingly three (nos. 2, 11 & 31) seem to be missing from those on Art UK. They have acquired many others, however, mainly by private gift/bequest, but also by two transfers from other parts of the municipal authority: a portrait of King Geo VI (23) lent in 1944 by Derby Corporation, and another of the long-serving borough librarian W H Walton (47) that in 1944 was technically held by Derby Public Libraries.

Marcie Doran,

Thank you, Osmund. An old article in “bygone stories’ on ‘Derbyshire Live’ was written by the artist’s son Bruce Townsend. He mentions the second work that was shown at the Paris Salon (no. 2296) and in 1944 (no. 68). https://www.derbytelegraph.co.uk/news/nostalgia/how-artist-ernest-townsend-helped-1686949

“One year, a sensitive picture of my elder brother, David, entitled “Schoolboy’s Holiday”, was selected for the prestigious Royal Academy Summer Exhibition and then shown in the Paris Salon, but it failed to find a buyer. Today it is a treasured part of our family collection.”

I’m wondering if the Collection might review the photocopy of Townsend’s studio diary for details about the portrait ‘W. Manderson Esq.’ I haven’t been able to locate him. My best guess is that he was related to Lucy Alexandra Manderson of Derby (1908-2003). She was a telephone operator at the Post Office and involved in many activities.

Oh dear, it all looked so neat....

The Derby Daily.Tel. report of 13.10.36 confirms it is the painting shown as 'C. Wolstenholme' in Paris that year, but does not explain how, as 'a presentation portrait', Townsend retained it - unless the reporter was using the term in an unusual way: i.e. a demonstration piece out of his usual conservative mode, not something done for the sitter or another purpose. (See Jacob Simon, Portraits: British 19th C, 28/01/2022 16:08).

The D.D.T also says it was at the RP show in 1935, which Osmund has proved it clearly wasn't.

When Mrs Townsend sent it to exhibition in 1944 the frame either already had the existing ‘T. Wolstenholme’ label (David Saywell, 09/02/2022 11:01) or it was mistakenly added then or later. An error of T for C could only have been phonetic memory: a written T might be confused as F and vice versa, but C with neither and it is still suspicious that for a ‘well-known Sheffield businessman’ there is no mention of him in Townsend’s sitter’s diary. That absence would be less surprising if the sitter was a local model.

Really proving it is a Sheffield businessman initialled C depends either on identifying one that fits - aged about 70-plus by 1935 at latest - or another likeness of Frederick W. of Derby, Townsend’s sometime model (d. 30.4.1931, aged 79.

Other points clear above:

a. It is apparently not Thomas Gilbert Wolstenholme, 1869-1950, Sheffield saw and knife maker, on photographic evidence (Osmund Bullock, 28/01/2022 21:35)

b. It is not Cyril Wolstenholme (b. 1896) on age grounds, though they would admit his father....

c. ...Francis Fanshawe Wolstenholme, 1868-1936, Sheffield ivory merchant (Bill Ellson, 29/01/2022 05:37).

d. Age would also admit Charles Mellor Wolstenholme, 1860-1947, cotton broker (and presumably of Sheffield since included here: Marcie Doran, 28/01/2022 18:01)

e. The Thomas W. who died in Sheffield in December 1936, worth buttons, aged 79 (Marcie Doran, 29/01/2022 15:15) can probably be dismissed as coincidence.

Marcie Doran,

It makes sense that the painting might first have been exhibited without a name attached to the sitter (rather than vice versa). Perhaps the artist was later pressured to attach a name to it. Mrs. Townsend likely mistakenly thought the sitter’s first name started with the letter C.

The painting ‘An Old Man’ (136) at the Royal Society of Portrait Painters in 1935 would not necessarily have been related to the 1944 Memorial Exhibition’s pastel ‘Portrait of an Old Man’ (91) (possibly Derby Museum and Art Gallery’s pastel ‘Head of an Old Man’).

Charles Mellor Wolstenholme, 1860-1947, wouldn’t have looked quite so worn out in 1932. Our sitter looks to be elderly – note his gnarled hands.

The family tree that I attached to my comment of 16/02/2022 02:47 included a tiny photo of Frederick Wolstenholme’s son Percy. I am assuming that Percy would have strongly resembled his father and I think that Percy looks a lot like the sitter in the Art UK work. I contacted the owner of that family tree and I was given the contact information of the original owner of the photo. The original owner has just replied to my message. Unfortunately, she will not be able to assist us with information/photos – Frederick Wolstenholme was a distant relative.

Marcie Doran,

Sorry – Mrs. Townsend likely mistakenly thought the sitter’s first name started with the letter T.

Looking back to Osmund's note of 16/2/22: 01.44, I see I have misread it. He points out that the 'Old Man' in the 1944 exhibition was a pastel, but there is as yet (unless I have missed it) no proof it was the picture of that title or medium in the 1935 RP show - so the 1936 D.D.T report that the present oil was could still be correct.

I have recently being going through the extensive archive of a well-known artist who was working in the period 1900-1940. From volumes of correspondence and newspaper cuttings etc it is very clear that 'my' particular artist, and I suspect many others of that period, actually provided the entire text for newspapers to publish. This was of course a very different era and artists relied heavily on national and local newspapers to report their activities and in effect to promote their work. Thus exhibits at the RA etc, acquisitions by public collections, or forthcoming exhibitions, all tended to be published at the request of the artist, subject I imagine to that artist being of some standing.

The implication of that comment here it is that Townsend himself supplied the 'Derby Daily Telegraph' note of 13.10.1936 (see Marcie Doran, 28/01/2022 18:02) identifying this item as the one shown at the Paris Salon in 1936 (as it certainly was) and previously at the Royal Soc. of Portrait painters in 1935, as a 'presentation portrait' of C. Wolstenholme, Sheffield businessman.

If true, it could only be Charles Mellor Wolstenholme, 1860-1947, among those we have identified, and that whoever a 'presentation' for (the sitter being obvious candidate) it was declined, or not paid for, since still with Townsend at his death in 1944.

The only other option is that Townsend was making things up (as suggested by Osmund) and the sitter was a respectable old Derby railwayman, Frederick Wolstenholme, who occasionally sat to him as a model but had died aged 78 in 1931. Frankly, that seems unlikely to me if only because -even if he did - there would have been no reason to gild the lily of such an imposture by calling it a 'presentation portrait'.

The 1944 Derby exhibition label apparently initialled 'T' is probably misread from what was intended as 'F' by Townsend's widow, confusing the local Wolstenholme who died in 1931 with the c. 1935 sitter in the wake of her husband's death and probably in hurried sorting out of what to exhibit (for sale) from his studio stock. That it may have been a rejected presentation was not something to have dwelt on, or again pointed out in the circumstances.

Unless another corroborating image is produced of the sitter, be it Charles or Frederick W., I doubt this will resolve further and the collection will have to make up its own mind.

The evidence that it was the portrait at the RP show in London in 1935 and then in Paris in 1936 (as 'C. Wolstenholme Esq') is solid, so on balance I think I'd follow that: i.e., change the title initial from 'T' to 'C.' , say 'probably [ or 'thought to be'] Charles Mellor Wolstenholme, 1860-1947, Sheffield businessman (cotton broker)', and add suitable assessment of the likely confusions to the curatorial record.

Louis Musgrove,

Jacob Simon mentions at the top that this is unlike his other works.
Looking at it dispassionately - to me it is not a paid for portrait.Looks like a study of a sick old man in a Hospital waiting room. Townsend did do paintings associated with Derby Hospital.
The interesting thing -Townsend camouflaged the Rolls Royce factory in Derby. His son Bruce Townsend tells the story-plus asides as to how difficult it was for his father to get commissions.He did paintings just to advertise his abilities. The portrait of David Townsend-another son--exhibited at Paris- failed to sell.

Louis Musgrove,

BTW. As mentioned by Marcie 17/02- but she didn't mention the stuff I found interesting :-) .

Derby Museums and Art Gallery,

Thank you all, as ever, for your ruminations on this. I am happy to go with Pieter's suggestion of changing the title initial from 'T' to 'C.' , "say 'probably [ or 'thought to be'] Charles Mellor Wolstenholme, 1860-1947, Sheffield businessman (cotton broker)', and add suitable assessment of the likely confusions to the curatorial record."

If, in the meantime, some other images or pieces of information turns up, we can reassess accordingly.

Osmund Bullock,

I cannot agree, I’m afraid. Charles Mellor Wolstenholme was born, baptized, married, raised children, died and (bar a period at boarding school in Manchester) seems to have lived and worked his entire life within a seven-mile radius of central Liverpool. His wife was a Liverpudlian, their children were all born in Birkenhead, and his father was also a successful Liverpool cotton broker. As far as I can see CMW had no professional or personal connection whatsoever with Sheffield or Derby, though it’s always possible someone will turn up something that connects him with places the other side of the Pennines. So far, though, no-one has; and as things stand it would have made no sense at all in 1935-6 – if telling the truth – to describe him in a newspaper as a Sheffield businessman. Moreover, as a man of considerable wealth - his probate valuation was nearly £212K, the equivalent today (relative to average earnings) of some £22M - I think it unlikely he'd have been painted wearing boots, and equally unlikely that a newspaper report (provided by the artist or not) would have been so vague and incorrect in its description of him, or indeed that his identity would subsequently have been lost. I think he is a complete red herring.

I also repeat my view that the head and shoulders close-up David provided of our painting (https://bit.ly/3s20wBG) cannot possibly show a commissioned presentation portrait - the sitter's face is just too sketchy and slapdash, and quite unlike Townsend’s other known portraits.

My previous conclusion (17/02/2022 14:31), that Townsend must have felt the need to tell some mild porkies in order to give the impression of being more in demand than he actually was, stands; and I think that the reminiscences by his son Bruce (https://bit.ly/3ktLy33) of how tough life was for them financially, and how portrait commissions – his bread and butter – often ran dry, give ample reason for why he might have done so. And don’t forget there is at least one other supposed sitter, ‘W. Manderson Esq’, among his exhibited works in the same period that has defeated repeated attempts by several of us to tie in with any real person.

I still believe the subject is far more likely to be Townsend's known occasional model, Frederick Wolstenholme, painted in the last few years (or even months) before his death in the spring of 1931.

Jacinto Regalado,

I find Osmund's argument persuasive. Another part of our portrait which is sketchy at best is the hands. I agree that this is unlikely to be a commissioned presentation portrait of a very wealthy man.

I have no problem with that counter-suggestion now that more solid evidence on Charles Mellor W. has been produced - albeit also just hypothesis. What it doesn't explain is why the 1936 Salon record (with a corroborating photo) gives 'C. Wolstenholme'.

If one dismisses everything else said about it in the Derby Daily Telegraph of 13. 10. 36, (for which Townsend is presumed source) it is also likely to have been the 'Old Man' (no.136) shown at the Portrait painters show in 1935, since the other was clearly identified in the catalogue as someone else.

For it to be (in fact) Frederick W, the Salon reference as 'C'. could only be unaccountable error and the current Derby listing a 'T.' a more accountable one, mistaking that for a correct 'F' on the label on the back.

The outcome is the same, unless another corroborating image turns up: the collection is going to have to make up its own mind, the only fairly certain thing being that it is not a 'T. Wolstenholme'.

If it is Frederick W., he might also be identifiable by name (or the likeness) in a photo connected with his church - St Andrew's, Derby - in the 1920s, perhaps a group one in a parish magazine, or for an event/outing. It can't be done here however.

I have re-read the entire discussion in the light of Osmund Bullock's very helpful research. As the Collection commented on 8th February 2022 this matter is quite a 'conundrum' often with conflicting information.

The provenance of the painting under discussion is the artist's widow, referred to by the Collection as Mrs Townsend. I believe her full names to be Elsie Doris Townsend (née Campbell) whose dates are 1889-1978. She preferred to be known as 'Doris'. See details from the attachment below. The painting was apparently part of her husband's estate on his death in January 1944 and it was exhibited as number 42 in the Memorial Exhibition of the Works of the late Ernest Townsend of Derby held in Derby from 7th October to 2nd December 1944. During the course of the exhibition the Collection acquired the painting from Mrs Townsend. It was titled in the exhibition as 'T. Wolstenholme Esq' but it is now accepted that the initial ‘T’ is unlikely to be correct, possibly due to the misreading of handwriting.

Following research the information provided pointed to the sitter being either Charles Mellor Wolstenholme (1860-1947), a wealthy businessman, or Frederick Wolstenholme, a respected elderly former railwayman from Derby. Osmund Bullock established that C M Wolstenholme had been based in Liverpool for his entire life and that he had no apparent connections with Sheffield. There is evidence that Frederick Wolstenholme, a local man, sat occasionally for Ernest Townsend as a model, rather than as a commissioning client, in the period before his death in 1931.

In the light of this further evidence, I am of the opinion that the title of the painting should now be amended to:

‘F. Wolstenholme, Esq’ (probably Frederick Wolstenholme, retired railwayman from Derby)

The Collection may wish to add that the painting appears to date from 1931 or earlier and that it was exhibited, as recorded previously, in 1936. The title of the painting may be reviewed again in future should any new information, or photographs of the potential sitters identified, become available.

Thanks Grant: I don't think we have seen Frederick W's exact birth year but with 78 as his given age at death (see Marcie Doran, 16/02/2022 01:51) his dates were c.1853-1931.