Dress and Textiles, Portraits: British 20th C 53 Who is this lady in a blue dress? When was this portrait painted?

Topic: Subject or sitter

The collection comments: 'This lovely painting is not on display, but is in our collection store. We have no more detail in our catalogue other than it was owned by Alfred Young Nutt (5th May 1847–25th July 1924) who was an English architect and artist, and Surveyor to the Dean and Canons of St George's Chapel, Windsor in the late 19th century.

He himself painted a number of small but beautiful watercolours, which we have in our collection, together with some prints, drawings and Christmas card illustrations. His family donated his collection of work to the museum and it included this portrait.

We will investigate further during January, as we have no date for the painting or the name of the sitter. From the relaxed pose and form of dress, it looks post-Victorian, so might date between 1901 and around 1922. We would like to hear from anyone who can shed further light on this work.'

Edward Stone, Entry reviewed by Art UK


As the painting was part of a family collection, a possible identification would be a member of Nutt's family. The date of probably the 1920s and her age of her forties or a bit older(?) suggest she might be Nutt's daughter. Art Detective's genealogists may be able to track down possible candidates.

A Windsor genealogy and local history site suggests the Nutts had three daughters, one of whom was called Lillian (http://theroyalwindsorforum.yuku.com/topic/930/Clewer-Village-amp-Clewer-New-Town?page=2#.WHYf83073pI) and apparently there are Nutt letters in the RIBA library.

"Mr and Mrs A.Y. Nutt and Miss Ida Mary Nutt" are referred to in the Slough Chronicle of 1912 April, p. 8.

Ida Mary Nutt may have married Benjamin Addington Adam in Windsor Sept 1912. Their son Raymond Hugh Addington Adam was born 30 Sept 1914 in Oakham. (www.rootschat.com/forum/index.php?topic=738085.0)

Pamela Gerrish Nunn,

Could it be by Flora Lion? Right date for her and reminds me of some of the works by her that I've seen.

Pamela Gerrish Nunn,

Sorry, I saw too late that you have an attribution for the maker, it was just the sitter you were wondering about. More haste less speed!

Malcolm Fowles,

Jo Strumphler was a Dutch artist, educated at the Rijksakademie in Amsterdam from 1902 to 1906. Her brief (but well referenced) biographical record at https://rkd.nl/en/explore/artists/109410 lists portraits as one of her main subject.

So the date range is slightly trimmed at the beginning; however she was active in Empe from 1913 to 1929 and died in Arnhem in 1938.

This opens rather a lot of questions: Dutch C20 scholars, the artist's travels, the collector's family travels, the clothes, ...

Malcolm Fowles,

Pursuing the clothes question, I can see why Andrew suggests the 1920s. Any image search quickly reveals the headband and broad V-neck to be classic flapper wear. On a mature woman like the sitter, the earliest year might be the one following this looks appearance in American movies (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1920s_in_Western_fashion#Womenswear Style gallery 1920-25, photo 5. I'd guess 1922 onwards, for about 5 years.

Which begs the question, if this is one of the Nutt daughters, how come she's sitting for a Dutch artist established in a small town near Apeldoorn?

I am in contact with Norman Oxley, who wrote a book about A Y Nutt in 1996. He lives in Windsor and was volunteering with us at the museum until just a couple of years ago. I will post his responses if any. Nutt retired in 1912 from the Castle, but continued to work on private commissons and he died in 1924. There is no mention on first glance at the book, of any Dutch connection. Whatever the answer, it is a great image, and I agree that it has the modern confident 20's look, maybe post 1918 and the Great War.

They seem to be cousins - same grandfather - Johan Christian Surie, who married Anna Geertruida Suzanna Lingeman in 1836.
He was in the metal trading business with his wife's brother Piet Lingeman. Arthur's mother Johanna Margaritha Surie, married her uncle, Hendrik Lingeman in 1867. Her sister, Maria,Sara Johanna's mother, married Herman George Strumphler in 1872.

Malcolm Fowles,

Well done Oliver! My hot favourite is that the sitter is Lilian Emily Nutt, painted by her cousin Jo, either in the Netherlands or in England, not long before her father Alfred died. Isn't it nice to surmise that this was a gift for him?

Perhaps the family has other images of her to corroborate this.

I hope that the Museum will let the RKD – the Netherlands Institute for Art History - know about this. Their artist database has played a major part here. The website is https://rkd.nl/en/

Osmund Bullock,

I had originally planned to write that an exhibition of Dutch art at Glasgow's McLellan Galleries in 1923, and that included what may be this portrait (see attached), means that the sitter might not be connected with the Nutts at all. But Oliver's excellent work has happily scuppered that - and I now find that the McLellan was not (as I'd assumed) a commercial gallery, so my associated hypothesis that it could have been purchased there was clearly wrong. There is no sign that (Sara) Johanna ever exhibited anywhere else in the UK.

Nevertheless this still seems quite likely to be the portrait exhibited at Glasgow - the 'blue dress' description in the Collection's title is certainly consistent, the date is perfect...and I can just about live with the sitter being described by The Scotsman as a girl (or am I being guilty of confirmation bias?). Lilian Emily Nutt's birth was registered at Windsor in Jan/Mar 1879, so she would have been 43 or 44, and this seems a good match.

To clarify slightly the relationship, the mother of Lilian's husband Arthur Lingeman (Johanna Surie b.1843) was the elder sister of the artist's mother (Maria Surie b.1847). They were first cousins.

Malcolm Fowles,

If anyone wants to pursue images of Lilian (Nutt) Lingemann or her sisters to confirm the identification:

She and Arthur appear to have had no children. They both died in the Isle of Wight, he in 1959 and she in 1963.

Ida Mary had a son, Raymond Hugh Addington Adam, b Oakham 30 Sep 1914, d 1963 London. There is at least one person actively interested in this line in family history forums. See http://www.rootschat.com/forum/index.php?topic=738085.0, at which I have left details of Art Detective's interest.

Maud Evelyn married a clergyman, Henry Thomas Malaher, on 3 Aug 1919; nephew Raymond was a page and sister Lilian sang a prayer, according to the Slough Observer. (Oh for a wedding photograph!) They had a son, Richard, but there is a death record soon after. Interestingly, Henry also died on the IoW, in 1957; but Maud died in spring 1978 in Worthing, aged 93.

Shaun Everett,

Looks like Virginia Woolf to me...just saying.

Carol Watt,

My Gt Gt Grandfather was AY Nutt's older brother. I have been trying to research the family for a number of years. I have never had any photos or anything.
I have kept in contact with Norman Oxley, who has shared a lot of his knowledge of the family with me and a number of years ago I spent a very enjoyable day with him and the staff at the Windsor Museum store, where I saw many of AY Nutt's drawings etc. that were not shown, because at the time there was no museum space.
I was shown a photograph that was thought to be Mrs M Nutt, Her daughters and one of their husbands, plus another girl.
I think this may be a link you could try and follow up,

Malcolm Fowles,

The *only* placed object in the composition, obscuring the left hand, ought to allude to something.

An ornament or a real flower? A waterlily cup? A symbolic Lily, as a cousin of the same age might know her?

Or ...

VW at 40 years old untitled, no centre parting, curls, and ... a smile. Hmmm ... nice try.

Malcolm Fowles,

Carol's recollection suggests that the museum itself may have a photograph that would corroborate the sitter as Lilian or a sister, if the girl is old enough.

Malcolm Fowles,

Carol has sent me more information personally. The Windsor museum photograph shows the Nutt girls as young women. The one husband must therefore be Arthur Lingeman, our artist's cousin, because the marriage dates were Lilian 1903 age 25, Ida 1912 age 38, Maud 1919 age 31.

She also now recalls buying a copy of the photograph on condition that she did not publish it. If she can find it, she would be happy to let the museum have it temporarily for this research if they can't find theirs.

It doesn't appear in Norman Oxley's book, by any chance?

In case this helps, Carol was shown round the museum store by a lady possibly called Caroline.

I couldn't see a photo showing faces in Norman's book. Caroline is no longer with us, but I do recall that she arranged the visit. We only have a very small team to cover the museum services now, but we do have a team member at our off site store today. We will check the photo - and the painting. I am delighted to see such interest, and the story unravelling. I will contact the Dutch RKD archive and work out how to display the work sometime in the near future. Further updates to follow.

Osmund Bullock,

Malcolm, the flower stem apparently held by the hidden hand, and running back above her arm, is almost certainly a Magnolia in advanced bud - one of the spring-flowering deciduous ones like x soulangeana. This is the sort of thing (the colours in the portrait's online image are, I suspect, a bit washed-out): http://shutr.bz/2iSgGaQ

I can't, though, yet make sense of the curious pom-pom thing obscuring her hand - could it be some sort of single-hand muff? She is clearly dressed to go out, with scarf/shawl ready on her lap - perhaps on her way to a special dinner or dance; and in fact I think the "blue dress" may in reality be an evening coat, with her dress showing beneath.

Carol Watt,

Last night I sent a copy of the photo I have to the museum. Looking at the photo I see some features that look similar, but in the portrait the pose is so much more 'relaxed' it is hard to confirm either way.
It really is a lovely picture. Hopefully the museum can date the people in the photo by dress etc.
I must just point out that at the time I visited the museum I was told it was "thought" to be a photo of Mrs Nutt, her daughters, and an unknown man and another girl.
Over the years I have bought a couple of letters that AY Nutt had written to his daughters. They came from South Africa. I don't know if their is connection there. I have never managed to find a link.

Osmund Bullock,

Carol, I wonder whether - if Windsor Museum agrees - it would be possible to post a scan of the photo on Art Detective? A number of people here are quite experienced at comparing faces and their physiognomies, even with different expressions and/or ages, and it might be good to get a spread of opinion.

Carol Watt,

I am willing to let the museum post the photo.
I think I signed the copyright agreement with them (I don't think it was anyone else, but the years go by and the memory goes a little).
I know you have to be so careful with photos. I shared one requesting it didn't go online, only to find it attached to unknown family trees on Ancestry. I will leave it to them, to see if they can find the original and advise.

Malcolm Fowles,

While we wait ... what about the date?

The Glasgow exhibition seems a very likely last date. The exhibition newspaper cutting is from 25 April 1923.

If the flower bud is from a magnolia, it was alive in March. But which March? Unless the artist was another Turner (in terms of last-minute hangings :-) I cannot see painting, drying, finishing and transport all fitting into a few weeks.

Nor can I see the living artists being asked to provide anything but recent works to represent their country.

So I'm happy with spring 1922 as the probable painting date. Not certain, because if the painting was already in Mr Nutt's possession, Jo Strumpfler could conceivably have asked him to loan it when she was asked to submit a work.

Perhaps the RKD or a Scottish source might find something about how the exhibition was prepared.

Apologies - I have been waiting for news before posting any more updates - I will be back in office on tuesday and will post the photo then - the friday team did not find but I am sure I have seen it before- I remember the hats! If Carol wants to attach as a file - we have no objections. The painting had a paper with artists name and portret- portrait I guess

Carol Watt,

Now the museum has given permission to post this, I hope I have attached it correctly. Give you all something to think about over the weekend!

1 attachment
Osmund Bullock,

Fantastic photo, thank you so much - and packed full of information.

Ignoring the family aspect for a second, I would date this from the dress, hair and hats of the younger women as circa 1908-12. Lou may be able to pin it down better than that (and may indeed disagree!) - the older woman's earlier style is misleading and should be ignored. I have family photos whose fashions seem to accord with this dating (and our class/status was similar), though I wish I could find the three excellent booklets on dating old photos that I have somewhere.

If we say Spring/Summer 1910 for the time being, then to my eye either of the two younger women seated in front (one with the pleated blouse/bow tie and cat on her lap, the other in a suit with a veiled hat) is a good match for our portrait sitter when 12 years younger - and I think the seemingly older one on the right is a very good match indeed. Granted the shared provenance, I would say it is now beyond reasonable doubt that our portrait is of one or other of the Nutt daughters. But which is which?

Assuming the info about the photo we have is correct (was it written on the back of the original, I wonder?) - i.e. that it is of Mrs Nutt and her three daughters, together with the husband of one (plus another unknown woman) - then I think (from facial features) that that the three sisters must be the three on the right. The unknown woman (top left) seems to share some physiognomy with the man, and if he is indeed Lilian's husband Arthur Lingeman (he & Lilian lived in England at nearby Sunningdale), then it could plausibly be his younger sister Suzanna on a visit from the Netherlands (or even his first cousin our artist). If the photo pre-dates Ida's marriage in July/Sept 1912, then of course it has to be him - and even if it post-dates it, in 1912 Ida's husband Benjamin Adam (b. early 1850) would have been 62, which is surely too old for this man. Arthur (b. July 1875) would have been 35 in 1910 (and sister Suzanna 32), and that looks pretty good to me.

By very good fortune all three of those I think are the sisters are displaying their wedding-ring fingers. Two of them clearly have no ring - but our veiled lady bottom right apparently has (though it's not in sharp focus). This means she must be Lilian - and she, of course, is on logical grounds Malcolm's (and my) favourite candidate for sitter. She was born in January 1879, and in 1910 would have been 31. The youngest, prettiest one (with the cat) is probably Maud Evelyn (b. summer 1884), who'd have been 25 or 26. And the third, standing rear right, is the oldest (and arguably plainest), Ida Mary (b.1874 Q2), who in 1910 was 35/36, and soon to marry a man nearly as old as her parents. Finally, the girls' mother Mary (b.c1847) would have been 62/63 in 1910.

Carol Watt,

This is a really good analysis of the photo.
I was looking at Norman Oxley's book to see if I could find any clues.
He said that there are around forty letters held by the Royal Institute of British Architects. Letters that were written mainly to Lillian and Maude, with references to Ida. Ida was said to be a very skilled artist, inheriting it from her father's watercolour talents.

Malcolm Fowles,

I like Osmund's logic, and I'd add just one noticeable feature. The portrait sitter and the veiled sister have the same arched eyebrows, and the other sisters do not. Very obvious if you zoom in. That's her.

Malcolm Fowles,

I also like the comparison of the cheekbone, the unconscious lean of the head, the shape of the eyes and (sorry madam) the puffy flesh around them.

Comparison picture attached.

I also think that Jo and Lilian liked each other. Not many artists go for a broad smile, or carry it off well.

1 attachment
Carol Watt,

I find it interesting how their fashion changed. High necks, veils, and long skirts to dress with open neckline and show of leg.
Perhaps Ida and Maude, married to a minister, would not have been so daring!

I am glad that my original suggestion that the portrait could be one of Nutt's daughters proved to have traction. Please note the correct spelling 'Lillian'. Good work by all on confirming this and the likely date 1922-23.

I would agree that the date of the portrait could well be c 1922 judging by the loose chignon, the neck line and the style of the loose mantle. As to the great family photo, I don't know if that is dated but it is maybe ten years earlier- see comparisons between straw boater worn by woman back row left and a straw boater from 'Ladies Home Journa,' ( albeit from USA) dated to March 1913. The unusual width of the crown is very specific to around this date.

Osmund Bullock,

All agreed, Malcolm - and yes, I've often found eyebrow shape very helpful. In this and in several other details I am grateful to Carol for posting such a high-res image of the photo - it was a joy to work with. You can even see that the flowers in the background are medium/tall bearded-type flag Irises, which in the south generally flower in May (a date supported by the shrub rose behind which seems not yet to be in bud - it looks like a Rugosa, which flowers from July).

Andrew - yes, it was your original suggestion that was key to unlocking all this. And on reflection you must be right about the spelling being 'Lillian' - it's actually found both ways in different records, though the balance is much in favour of the double 'L'. I changed it to the single after seeing the 1911 Census form, apparently filled in by Arthur Lingeman himself, which spells it 'Lilian' (attached 1). But I now see that the first link you gave us has an image of a 1910 illustrated letter from her father Arthur that begins, "My dearest Lillian" (attached 2) - and that (along with Birth, Marriage, Death & Probate listings) is good enough for me. Lillian it is.

Lou, thanks for the as ever valuable input on both portrait and photo. In this instance the ring-finger evidence suggests the photo can’t be as late as 1913, but could it be May 1912? Ida (who was a musician) married Benjamin Adam on 24th July 1912 (report from ‘The Times’ - attached 3), so it is certainly possible.

EDIT: I’ve just found on the BNA an announcement of Ida’s engagement dated 15th April 1912 (attached 4) – if we’re not reading too much into the ring/no ring business, and I’m right about the month of May, this suggests the photo must be from 1911 or before. Having said that, I see from the CET temperature records that the spring and preceding winter of 1912 were exceptionally warm, so Irises may have flowered earlier. But all this has little to do with the portrait, sorry, so I’ll leave it at that.

Malcolm Fowles,

I propose the following for Windsor and Royal Borough Museum to mull over.

Title: Lady in a Blue Dress: Mrs Lillian Emily Lingeman, née Nutt, cousin by marriage of the artist.

Date: most probably 1922, in spring, around the sitter's 43rd birthday.

Malcolm Fowles,

To thank Carol for her help, I've digitally retouched some problems in the family photograph, as attached. All rights belong to the original owners. I have:

* Reversed out the fading in the lower half, and slightly improved the clarity overall.
* Healed what seems to be a hard-edged water stain above the hem of mother's dress, which was very visually distracting. It might be on the original negative or a later accident, but I'm sure she wouldn't have wanted it in either case!
* Healed various dust, scuff and pen marks, and a coloured light leak down the RH border.
* Removed numerous artefacts, mainly black and white dots and pixel lines, that must have been introduced by past scans, handling, and chemical action.

The collection may want to display the photo alongside the portrait, perhaps with something on this detective work. If so, for a better quality display you might repeat the above on a higher resolution scan from the original photo, dust-free on a clean scanner bed. A colour scan is easier to restore even if the image is monochrome. I'd be happy to retouch the image again, anonymously, no charge.

Museum visitors who are family historians might be interested in before-and-after versions, opening their minds to new possibilities for their own collections.

1 attachment
Osmund Bullock,

I would avoid saying 'blue dress' as the garment probably isn't that - perhaps 'Lady in blue' (if it needs anything other than her name). I can't find a copy of the 1923 Exhibition catalogue anywhere, so we don't know the original title (assuming it is the same painting). And I would remove the reference to her birthday - though registered in the first quarter (to March 1879), she was actually born on 27th January [see attached]. On the other hand I would add Lillian's overall dates (1879-1963).

1 attachment
Carol Watt,

Thank you Malcolm for your work improving the photo, also it was good to see the painted face and image of Lillian to compare.

Whilst researching my family history I have been amazed at the story of Alfred Young Nutt, his work, family and art. I have enjoyed visits to Windsor, St Georges Chapel, Whippingham and Goldthorpe Churches.

This discovery is another chapter I have seen unfold, and I'm pleased I was able to help with the photo.

Thank you to all those who have contributed to this discussion so far and the unravelling of such an interesting story.
Well worth an exhibition of the work to include some of excellent, high quality research carried out. Not only that - it is a delightful picture.
I tried to identify the item that Osmund above called a 'pom pom', I think its is an ostritch feather evening fan of two different colours, of the period 1910 -20, the kind that flips from closed, to a circular 360 degrees. Like a japanese fan. Just a guess. Perhaps Lou Taylor can comment.
I will attach the image from the back of the painting for interest.
Margaret Kirby, Service Manager Heritage and Arts - for the museum.

Malcolm Fowles,

When you have the exhibition dates, please post them here. Best wishes.

Tim Williams,

One of those notes from the back of the painting is an exhibition label for an exhibition somewhere in the Netherlands. In the printed text (just out of view on the photo) and just above the 'Aard van het Kunstwerk' may be the institution name.

Osmund Bullock,

I think you may have cracked it re the mystery object, Margaret – perhaps too small for ostrich, and not necessarily (though possibly) folding, but it certainly looks like some sort of small 'cockade' evening fan, and probably of feathers. I can't find anything quite like it online, but the attached images all perhaps have some aspects in common.

Thanks, too, for the rear label views. It looks like it was exhibited at least twice (probably in the Netherlands, though one could be the Glasgow exhibn) – there are two different Amsterdam addresses for Jo Strumphler, who presumably must have retained it herself for a period. I will see if I can track down some online Amsterdam directories for the period - if she is listed that may give us approx dates for the exhibiting.

As others will no doubt have discovered (or know anyway), on the part-printed label that Tim mentions, the word 'olieverf' beneath 'Portret' merely means 'oil paint'. That it was apparently not for sale (no selling price, 'Verkoopsprijs') is what we would hope to see on a family portrait.

1 attachment
Malcolm Fowles,

Google (a) Wouwermanstraat 3, Amsterdam and (b) Van Eeghenlaan 25, Amsterdam. Both are near the Rijksmuseum. Both are on Google StreetMap so you can park your bike outside and have a look.

Dirk Roeland,

Mr. Arthur Lingeman and his Wife Lillian Nutt lived from August 25th 1919 until November 10th 1922 in Amsterdam as the "gezinskaart" shows.
Jo Strumphler was an aunt of my mother.

1 attachment

Thank you all for contributions - I will be adding information and declaring this as a discovery, but though we are keen to plan for an exhibition, we do not have a place for display just yet.
Our small museum is at the Guildhall in Windsor, and we have a large panel on our entrance door showing a crop from a V&A painting of Nell Gwyn, who spent time in the town. She is holding a fan very similar to Lillian's - but I just had not noticed the shape before.

1 attachment
Osmund Bullock,

Thanks for that, Windsor. We'll probably never know for certain, but a very knowledgeable antiques dealer friend who specializes in early C20th women's clothing and accoutrements thinks it is unlikely to be a fan as such - certainly she's never seen anything like it. She feels it is probably part of a corsage (with the magnolia bloom) specially put together for the ball that Lillian is off to (or just back from). Though originally mounted on the waist, as dresses became less structured the corsage was increasingly moved to the wrist or even hand-held so it could be carefully put aside to avoid damage while dancing. In essence, though, there is not much difference - like fans they are more decorative than functional (though fans could also be used transmit all sorts of non-linguistic messages!).

Osmund Bullock,

Oh, one other thing, (?)Margaret. I think you may have missed the request by Tim Williams above (which I second) requesting an image of the first rear label you showed us that includes its top - we think there might be the name of the exhibiting institution there. This is the one we mean: https://static.artuk.org/_source/wp-20170113-14-33-01-pro.jpg

I have been doing some work in Amsterdam municipal records - the same ones where Dirk Roeland has found, most helpfully, evidence of the sitter's residence in the city 1919-22. My focus has been on the artist's movements and exhibiting - belated thanks, Malcolm, for deciphering the addresses on the labels, and perfectly.

I have quite a bit to share about Johanna Strumphler, but none of it pins down the portrait's date beyond what we already think. However, it is just possible that what's at the top of the label's might link it to a 1921 exhibition in Amsterdam – one of three I’ve found with reviews in Dutch newspapers that mention her work (though the main one was a posthumous one-woman show in 1938).

Malcolm Fowles,

Osmund, you are a great researcher and a true gentleman. So I feel like a heel in asking the collection to be sure to refer to Jo (Sara Johanna) Strumphler rather than to Johanna.

This is not merely my youth, impertinence and laxity, though I do suffer from 2 out of 3 of those. Jo is her familiar name in the RKD database, so probably how she was and is still known to the Amsterdam art world, and of course to the lady she was painting. We don't want our Dutch colleagues smiling pityingly at us. :-)

Osmund Bullock,

Thanks for pointing that out, Malcolm, and I entirely concur - with your second sentence, that is, not the first.

Please support your comments with evidence or arguments.

jpg, png, pdf, doc, xls (max 6MB)
Drop your files here
Attach a file Start uploading

Sign in

By signing in you agree to the Terms & Conditions, which includes our use of cookies.