Photo credit: y Gaer Museum, Art Gallery & Library
Over the last few months Art Detective has helped to discover who painted three of the portraits hanging in the Court Room at y Gaer, Brecknock Museum and Art Gallery.
This one remains unattributed and I wonder if once again anyone can help identify the artist. Could it be William Orpen? The portrait is painted when Stanley Bligh is about 30, in about 1900. Later in life he grew a full beard. He was a remarkable man, wrote several books popularising psychology and then during the First World War used his estate to develop methods for increasing yields on smallholdings.
Around 1902 Bligh put up the first monument to Llwelyn ap Gruffudd on a site on his own land near where the prince is said to have died in around 1230. Perhaps the portrait was painted at this time.
Unfortunately, this portrait is hanging quite high in the courtroom at y Gaer and very securely fixed, so it would require a long ladder and strong men to remove the painting to check the back. The collection has asked us to contact them again in the New Year when a new Senior Curator will be in post. In the meantime perhaps we can learn more by other means.
I do not think this has the bravura and panache of William Orpen but it might be worth considering Hubert von Herkomer:
What does the collection know about provenance? Where was this transferred from in 1974?
This webpage might explain the "transferred, 1974".
Another portrait that was “transferred, 1974”, was this one of the First Baron Glanusk.
The attached article from 1901 about that portrait does not mention the portrait of Stanley P. M. Bligh in the Shire Hall, although the words "with the other county worthies, amongst whom" would indicate other unnamed portraits.
A portrait of the Second Baron Glanusk was also “transferred, 1974”. According to the attached article from 1937, it was a gift from Colonel Sir John James Jones of Fronheulog, Cefn Coed. It seems to have been created posthumously, c. 1937 not c. 1920.
I expect John Collier, who painted the 1st Baron Glanusk c. 1901, may also have painted Stanley Bligh at around the same time.
Marcie, is there anything in the BNA database about this portrait between the 1890s and the start of WWI?
I haven’t found any mention of this portrait in the BNA database.
In her will dated November 15, 1950, Matilda Agnes Bligh (née Wilson) bequeathed her “furniture household effects plate and plated articles and also my jewellry and personal effects free of duty” to her niece Patricia Campbell Moodie. She also left various cash legacies to five named relatives and the residue of her estate to seven nieces and nephews.
According to the Campbell-Moodie family tree on Ancestry and newspaper articles, [Mary Winifred] Patricia Dean of Ankerwycke Priory (b. August 28, 1898) married Edward Campbell Moodie, the press officer at the High Commission of Canada, on October 2, 1943, in London. The couple divorced in the U.S. on April 11, 1962. She passed away in London on November 15, 1967.
I doubt that this painting would have been transported to Wales after Matilda passed away in London in 1954, or after Patricia passed away in London in 1967.
The Cilmery Park estate was sold in 1950.
Here is a composite, Jacinto, based on your comment of 03/12/2022 18:21.
Thank you, Marcie. The treatment of the hands is quite similar. Collier is certainly a candidate for the painter. Does the collection know when the portrait entered the Shire Hall?
Perhaps an archivist at the National Library of Wales could check Bligh's will for mention of this portrait. Could the collection make the request?
The portrait may have gone to the Shire Hall well before Bligh died, in which case it would not figure in his will unless it had been a loan rather than a gift. However, checking his will is a valid step.
Here is an interesting article about Stanley Bligh from the January 1916 issue of 'The World's Work' that includes an image of him.
Sir John Lloyd ,after whom the art gallery in y Gaer is named, may provide a key link to the picture. He had been instrumental in setting up the Brecon Museum in 1920 and would have worked closely with Stanley Bligh before he died to establish the new memorial to Llewelyn which was finally erected in 1956.
It is likely that the portrait was in Cilmeri up until the sale of the estate was sold. The beneficiary was the Breconshire County Council. Maybe they transferred the picture to Brecon Museum at the suggestion of John Lloyd who had opened the first Brecon Museum some years before
But as suggested there may also be a link with the first Lord Glanusk who had a keen interest in local history and was instrumental in creating the 1909 edition of Theophilus Jones History of Brecknockshire. The occasion of the erection of the first memorial to Llewelyn might have provided the spur for the portrait and Lord Glanusk might have suggested Collier as the artist.
It may prove fruitful to check the manuscript previously mentioned by Osmund in a different discussion, 'Register of Paintings of the Hon. John Collier,' a copy of which is held by the NPG/Heinz Archive & Library. The ODNB calls it his sitter book, and says it covers the years 1874-1934. Perhaps Osmund himself could do so.
Marcie, Stanley Bligh's Will can be ordered in the usual way for England & Wales - probate index entry attached.**
Jacinto, I don't think I'll be going to the Heinz any time soon, sorry. I've an awful lot on my plate at the moment, and won't be contributing much to proceedings until January at the earliest.
[**If you'd already seen the probate index entry but were put off by mention of the probate being "resealed", this term - like 'sealed' - does not mean the Will is sealed shut and unavailable: it’s sealed in the sense of a seal being applied to a document to ensure its authenticity. It is used when a copy probate (or 'confirmation' in Scotland - another term I think you've misunderstood) is to be sent to a different probate jurisdiction where property is also held, and avoids the need to apply for another probate under their authority. I won't go into it further here, but you can find plenty of information about both these terms with a simple online search.]
I stopped reading Stanley Price Morgan Bligh's will (dated 2 August 1935) in December after reading that he bequeathed five pounds for each year of complete service "to all male (but not female) persons who shall be in my regular employment at my death”.
I have just read the rest of the will. He made bequests to his wife and five other people (two men and three women). He also left an annuity of 300 pounds per year (that was to double after the death of his wife) plus an additional annuity of 20 pounds for each year of service to his employee Emily Josephine Lloyd (known as "Amy"). She was permitted to reside in his mansion house Cilmery Park (with his furniture, pictures, etc.) after his wife's death, until her own demise. He did not mention any specific works of art.
Another possible artist could be Roger Eliot Fry (1866–1934). A chalk drawing dated 1893 and an oil painting dated 1894 both seem to be very similar to the Art UK work.
My composites are based on:
I think the top right of the high res image does have some kind of marking on it – but it's not clear if it's a date, initials, monogram. I've attached it, but it looks from the other marks that this section is possibly under the frame, so wouldn't be easy to check in real life.
I would tentatively say it's a monogram, possibly with F and A, with the number 3 and 4 underneath, or maybe letters (could be upper case S, or lower case g). But perhaps this is another avenue of possibility. I am not sure I can see (for example) the REF monogram of Fry as suggested by Marcie on the chalk drawing, but it's really difficult to tell, and maybe it is that...
I can't see initials or a date (a different adjusted view is attached), but perhaps the new curator will be able to confirm that.
I'd've thought Collier much more likely than Fry. I'll try to see the Collier sitter book on Tuesday.
Collier *is* much more likely than Fry, who is not likely.
The curator has replied, 'Unfortunately yes, taking down the portrait is not an option at present due to its location high on a wall which would involve scaffolding to remove. I have had a look at our high-res version of the image and the portrait itself and cannot see any sign of the initials either. The lines seen on the high-res image that Andrew thought may be where the frame sits are, I believe, the stretcher bars for the canvas.'
I had a look at the Collier sitter book today but it is not straightforward to use. On first inspection I don't think our portrait is included. I hope to look again.
The Collier sitter book was indexed by the NPG. Our man does not appear. So the identity of the artist remains an open question.