Completed Portraits: British 20th C, Wales: Artists and Subjects 13 Who painted this portrait of RAF gunner Vivian Parry?

Topic: Artist

Can anyone please help identify the artist who painted this portrait of Vivian Parry? Vivian Parry served with the RAF as a gunner during the Second World War. He was killed in action in 1942 when his Wellington bomber was downed by enemy fire. He was the son of Sarah Olwen Parry, Captain Vivian Hewitt's housekeeper. Captain Vivian Hewitt (1888-1965) was born to a wealthy brewing family in Grimsby but moved to north Wales with his mother after his father died. He later moved to Cemlyn on Anglesey and established a bird sanctuary in the grounds of his house, Bryn Aber. We believe Capt. Hewitt (known affectionately as the modest millionaire) would have commissioned this painting by an established portrait artist, but unfortunately there are no signatures or inscriptions on the work.

Oriel Môn, Entry reviewed by Art UK

Completed, Outcome

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Louis Musgrove,

Sorry I'm wrong- badge for Air Gunner-But DFC and R.A.F Volunteer Reserve badge. I didn't look with my glasses on !

Louis Musgrove,

Could it have been done recently from a photo by someone like Geoff Nutkins???
Otherwise -if contemporary to WW2 could it be Frank Ernest Beresford?- who had a similar style to this.

Jacinto Regalado,

The vital dates for the sitter should be given in the Art UK entry.

Marcie Doran,

I searched for military painters from 1950 who had important sitters and an artificial look to their work. I believe that the artist was Arthur Douglas Wales-Smith (1888-1966), a British artist.

In this portrait at the National Maritime Museum, the shirt and tie, gold buttons, and hazy background are similar to those in the mystery portrait.

“Sir Dudley Pound (1877–1943)”

In this portrait at the National Maritime Museum, the shirt and tie, orange skin and hazy background are similar to those in the mystery portrait.

“George VI (1895–1952)”

Louis Musgrove,

Marcie- yes Arthur Wales Smith is very similar.Perhaps with a bit more detail? Don't know if he would have painted lower ranks.Of course there is our old friend Guy Lidell? My guess would be someone local that Vivian Hewitt would know.
BTW. Is this definitely painted in oils?? Might it be acrylic?

Marcie Doran,

An article from 2017 discussed this portrait.

The final image on that page is actually a newspaper article from 1942 that includes a photo of Vivian Parry (taken by “Harding, Rhyl”).

Vivian Parry’s full name (Vivian Weston Parry) and date of birth (December 25, 1914) are shown on his entry for the 1939 England and Wales Register. The date of his passing (September 5, 1942) is shown on his probate entry.

An article from March 14, 1942, discussed the awarding of the D.F.C. to Vivian Parry.

Marcie Doran,

Vivian Parry’s entry in the International Bomber Command Centre’s Losses Database shows that he was the “son of John David and Eleanor Myfanwy Parry, of Comlyn”.

Records on Ancestry show that John David Parry and Ellenor [Eleanor] Myfawny Jones were married in 1908. They were recorded as living together in Rhyl at the time of the 1911 Census of England and Wales. John passed away on September 8, 1948. Eleanor’s date of birth, shown on a transit card to the Bahamas (where Captain Vivian Hewitt had a home), was October 29, 1883.

The 1939 England and Wales Register shows Captain Vivian Hewitt, Eleanor Myfawny Parry and three children (the name of the third child is blacked out) living at Bryn Aber (along with a mechanic). Vivian Parry’s siblings were: John Henry Parry (“Jack”)(b. September 5, 1909), Paul Kenneth Parry (b. April 15, 1911) and Myfawny Parry (later Davies) (b. October 25, 1912).

The record in that Register for Vivian Parry shows his address as “Holmfield” at 23 [? crossed out] West Kinmel Street, Rhyl. The article that I mentioned in my first comment shows that the address of his parents was “21, West Kinmel Street, Rhyl, and Cemaes Bay”.

Chapter 17 of the book ‘The Curse of the Labrador Duck: My Obsessive Quest to the Edge of Extinction’ (2009) by Glen Chilton includes a discussion of Captain Vivian Hewitt, his housekeeper Mrs. Parry, and her children.

Here is a link to a book about Captain Vivian Hewitt, ‘Modest Millionaire: Biography of Captain Vivian Hewitt’ (1973) by W. Hywel.

Jacinto Regalado,

It is entirely possible that the picture in question was painted after a photograph, quite possibly posthumously.

Osmund Bullock,

I think it’s not just possible, Jacinto, but virtually certain – the photo used was clearly the same one by Harding reproduced by the Rhyl Journal in his (?Sep) 1942 obituary (see Marcie’s post of 27/08/2022 14:30). The photo does not appear to show his DFC ribbon (awarded March ’42); it may therefore have been taken to mark his commission as probationary pilot-officer in Nov 1941**. And I’m sure you’re right to suspect the portrait was posthumous, indeed probably post-war.

Attached is a comparison between the portrait and the photo which makes the case. Alongside it, too, is a photo of Capt Vivian Hewitt at the same sort of age, which in my view strongly supports the idea that he was Parry’s real father – look at the eyes in particular.

[**Ranks and their insignia in Bomber Command can be very confusing: even after being commissioned with the rank of pilot-officer, Parry remained an air-gunner, and so did not have on his uniform the twin wings of a pilot, just the single one of aircrew. On the other hand the actual pilot of the Wellington bomber in which Parry died was not at the time an officer but *did* bear double-wings as a Sergeant-pilot; he was, moreover, the skipper and commanded the aircraft, notwithstanding his lower rank.]

1 attachment

The title has been updated to 'Pilot Officer Vivian Weston Parry (1914–1942), DFC'.

Looking again for anything at all on Vivian Parry: though it doesn't advance our cause, he painted this piece of 'nose art' (painted fabric tied on the front of an aircraft), signed 'Viv'.