Portraits: British 19th C 173 Who painted this portrait of Sir George Osborne Morgan?

Sir George Osborne Morgan
Topic: Artist

I was involved in researching the paintings in the local museum collection for the PCF project. I did contact the National Portrait Gallery about the work but were not able to help with the artist – they have kept an image I sent them on file. The sitter was obviously an important political figure and would have chosen a good and probably fashionable artist of the day to sit for – I did hazard someone like Millais. There is no discernible signature of inscription, front or back. I would be most interested if you could help to identify or suggest any possible artist. Please note this work belongs to Gwynedd Museum and Art Gallery.

Royal Cambrian Academy of Art, Entry reviewed by Art UK

173 comments

Have you considered Edgar Hanley who exhibited a portrait of Morgan (RA 1882) that is listed in the old DNB? It was still in the collection of Morgan's widow in 1901. There might just be some slight similarity in how the figure is sited in the canvas in comparison to the (very) few other known works by Hanley.
Another step would be to find out what year Bangor University acquired the work and from whom.

Barbara Bryant

Paul Kettlewell,

Hello, the attached newspaper article from the Wrexham Advertiser dated 16 Apr 1887 suggests that the artists name was Sparrow. There is a full description of the presentation, if this is the same painting...

Regards

Paul Kettlewell

1 attachment
Martin Hopkinson,

If the newspaper erred over the first initial this could be the then young Walter Shaw Sparrow [1862-1940] ]well known later as a writer on art, who was a pupil at the Slade of Legros and from 1880 studied at the Academie Royale des Beaux Arts in Brussels where he became a friend of Knopff. He had a studio in Brussels. His reminiscences 'Memories of life and art through sixty years', published in 1925
He was born near Wrexham at Gwyrsyllt Hill - so if he was not the artist, perhaps he had a close relative whose first name began with a M

The Wrexham Advertiser article describes the portrait as "three-quarter length, standing near a table", which does not quite correspond with the Gwynedd Museum portrait (unless it was cut down), but it is an intriguing suggestion.

Martin Hopkinson,

Shaw Sparrow devoted pp 168 -174 to the commission from the Liberal Party and the sitter - the only lengthy discussion given to any of his paintings - I imagine that the Gwynedd picture was a sketch for the big painting - or a separate picture given to the sitter. Two paintings , a larger one and a smaller one were frequently painted in connected with commissions of this kind . There are several instances in the case of portraits painted for Glasgow University from 1850 well into the 20th century
He was not an admirer of his sitter, whom he described as a 'dim light among Gladstone's minor bigwigs', but the artist was avowedly a Disraelian Tory

Martin Hopkinson,

Shaw Sparrow's principal supporter according to his reminiscences was Sir Evan Morris, Lord Mayor of Wrexham- there may be other works by Walter Shaw Sparrow in private and public collections in the Wrexham area. Philip Rathbone, the most influential and knowledgeable collector in Liverpool bought one of Sparrow's exhibits at a Liverpool Autumn Exhibition. This was a small painting on panel.

Martin Hopkinson,

The large portrait was exhibited unpriced [hence not for sale] as no. 85 at the 1887 Liverpool Autumn Exhibition from the address
304 Chausee d'Ixelles, Brussels
He did not exhibit any other portraits in Liverpool. He mostly showed genre paintings
Only one other large painting was in these exhibitions to judge by its price
1883 no. 113 'Qui vive?' 250 pounds - his other exhibits ranged from 8 guineas to 22 pounds

Martin Hopkinson,

There is a short piece which I cannot translate , not having Welsh, linking Sparrow to the Morgan family in the Caernarvon newspaper Y Goleuod [I hope that this is the correct spelling!] Saturday 4 September 1886

Martin Hopkinson,

The large three quarter length painting could be hanging in a Liberal Club, or other club of which Sir George Osborne Morgan Bart. was a member

Further to my earlier comments (see above, the first in this thread), I think the review of Edgar Hanley's portrait of Osborne Morgan in the Art Journal (1882) does confirm that he is the artist:
"A very straightforward, but yet not unpicturesque portrait of Mr. G. Osborne Morgan, M.P., in court dress, by Mr. Edgar Hanley. No. 517. "

Martin Hopkinson,

This review certainly seem to point to Hanley rather than Shaw Sparrow as the artist. Morgan had no children, but his will might provide more information. There have been an auction after his death, although none is recorded by Lugt

Alice Read,

Would you like me to amend the artist to 'attributed to Edgar Hanley'?

Just caught up with this. Needless to say, checks at NPG Archive ( in my spare time) happened before I posted my comments. Nothing there. Witt, too (which has zilch). Internet only source for a very few visual images which I think do not contradict my attribution to Edgar Hanley. Hardly a master, but someone who knew how to produce a portrait of a judge in court dress (and of course it was the court dress that was the giveaway in the end).

Martin Hopkinson,

The only paintings by Walter Shaw Sparrow, of which I have seen photographs, are of genre subjects. These are not at all like this portrait. So I think that we should accept Barbara's attribution

Bruce Trewin,

Just a short query, is that a bit of chair back showing over the right shoulder or a bit of judge regalia? If the former it rules out the 'standing by a table' portrait mentioned earlier.

George Reiss,

George Osborne Morgan was the son-in-law of Caroline Reiss (nee Gerson) painted by Millais at about the same time, but that is not to disagree with any of the above.
It is good to note that his widow Emily was in possession of the painting after her husband's death as his greatest achievement had been to steer through the Married Women's Property Bill of 1882. He also helped abolish flogging in the army. So although he may have been a "dim light" he did achieve something of lasting value!

Martin Hopkinson,

Dr Malcolm Warner , Director of the Laguna Art Museum, is the leading authority on the portraits of Millais

Before proposing to close this discussion, I'd like to add a few more comments about the painting. But before doing that, might I request a higher resolution image? There might be something visible in the background, as suggested by Bruce Trewin.
It would also be very helpful to know, as mentioned earlier, if the home institution, Gwynedd Museum and Art Gallery, was able to find out about the depositor of the painting? And if they can say anything about the year that Bangor University acquired the painting or any records of the painting being there?
It is time we put the good judge to rest, but a bit more information is needed first.

Thank you for sending the high res image. We had an earlier comment about the curious shape behind the judge's head. It's too close to the figure to be part of a chair. Rather it seems to be a "wig-bag", an essential element of traditional male court dress worn at the back of the neck where it attached to the coat so it hung over the collar. It was, according to one contemporary description, "an elaborately made rosette of black ribbon". The detail of this element of the judge's garb tells us the artist is being scrupulously accurate in his depiction of court dress.

Might Gwynedd Museum be able to send a digital snap of the back of the painting? Also, if they had further information about how the painting came to Bangor University, it would help.

Thank you very much, John. This is extremely helpful and interesting. I've been on the verge of closing this discussion, but will now wait a bit longer.

John Ramm,

My pleasure, Barbara. I've also done a little research into the artist to fill out that in the usual works of reference. He was born in London in 1856 and died aged only 30 on the 18 October 1886. His last know address was 1 Fitzroy Street, Fitzroy Square - now a Grade 1 listed building -where another portrait painter, Thomas Gullick also lived between 1882 and 1893. For such a young man he was actually quite a talented and successful portraitist.

Andrea Kollmann,

The Strand Magazine showed portraits of Osborne Morgan in their "Portraits of Celebrities at different times in their lives” section in 1896.
The portrait showing him at age 55 fits the one described in the Wrexham Advertiser, "three-quarter length, standing near a table".
But, if the “at age 55” description is correct, it was already painted in 1881/1882.

I also attach a further example of Hanley’s work (published in The Graphic, 1883)

Strand magazine, p 444:
https://archive.org/stream/TheStrandMagazineAnIllustratedMonthly/TheStrandMagazine1896aVol.XiJan-jun#page/n453/mode/2up

Andrea Kollmann,

This description of the painting in the Wrexham Advertiser (29th April 1882) does not support an attribution to E. Hanley:

"...represents the ... gentleman standing in Court dress. It is a three-quarter length and the pose of the figure is natural. ..."

Osmund Bullock,

What he is wearing in the illustration of him aged 55 from the Strand Magazine (1896) is certainly Court (i.e the Royal Court) Dress of one variety (though this portrait very probably shows another kind). The former does look as if it may derive, via a photograph, from a painted portrait, and the 1881/82 date estimated from his age suggests that it would be the Hanley portrait of 1882. The attached enlargement moreover shows that he is not standing near a table, but has his hand resting on the back of a chair.

I now think that Martin's suggestion of a year ago, that this is a smaller version or preliminary sketch of the c1887 Walter Shaw Sparrow one, looks more likely. Equally likely is that it is the full-sized one cut down - in fact, looking at it again and noting that, for such a bog-standard composition, the figure and head are slightly oddly placed off-centre for no discernible artistic reason, I am veering towards this idea.

Andrea Kollmann,

I attached the wrong article, sorry for that. Could you please delete my posting?

Attached is the right one.

1 attachment
Patty Macsisak,

Comparing the portrait to other images of the sitter on the Internet, I would argue that the date of the portrait is earlier than the 1880s. Isn't the white neck cloth in the painting above consistent with court dress of the 1840-1868 period? Sir George Osborne Morgan served in Parliament from 1868 and the portrait may commemorate his election.

Ref. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Court_uniform_and_dress_in_the_United_Kingdom#The_19th_century

"A new style of court dress, worn from the 1840s, comprised a dark, frequently black, cloth (or silk-velvet) single-breasted dress coat (lined with black silk, except for the tail, which was white), with a stand collar. This was worn with a white satin or black silk collarless waistcoat, and white neckcloth. For levées, this was worn with matching velvet trousers with a gold lace stripe down the seam. For drawing rooms matching breeches with white silk stockings, and a white neck-cloth was worn.

"In 1869, the Lord Chamberlain's Department issued new regulations for gentlemen at Court. The new style of suit was described, in which the cloth coat and breeches were replaced with silk velvet. This had been permitted before, but in place of the embroidered waistcoat was a waistcoat of plain white silk. A coat for levée dress had dark coloured cloth, single-breasted, with a stand collar, and trousers of the same material and colour as the coat, both decorated with narrow gold lace on collar, cuffs and pocket flaps, similar to that worn on certain classes of the civil uniform. A gold lace loop and button were similarly worn on the hat, and a sword of the same pattern carried."

Jacinto Regalado,

The portrait does not look like a man in his early forties, but much more like someone in his sixties.

Thanks, Jason. Yes, it's never JE Millais. I am 99.9% sure this portrait is by Edgar Hanley and although I have been on the point of closing it for several years (yes, really), I will do so in the next days.

Christopher Foley,

Barbara, just before you close the discussion, I thought you might want the full Royal Academy reference for the painting by Edgar Hanley. It was RA 1882 number 510, and described in the catalogue as "The Rt Hon G Osborne Morgan QC MP, her Majesty's Advocate General."

Kieran Owens,

The son of Sylvanus Hanley, a barrister, Edgar Wilkins Hanley was christened on the 17th October 1855. He would have been 26 years of age when he exhibited, in April 1882 at the RA, the portrait of George Osborne Morgan in court dress.

The Strand Magazine of 1896 shows an image of Osborne Morgan aged 55. Morgan was born on the 8th May 1826 and thus the image depicts him, in court dress, sometime after the 8th May 1881. In April 1882, at the time of the RA show, he would still have been 55.

It seems logical, therefore, that the Strand Magazine image was taken or adapted from or in some way based upon the portrait by Edgar Wilkins Hanley, which is not the one under discussion here.

The portrait under discussion is, therefore, more likely to be that as painted by Walter Shaw Sparrow in 1886 and presented to Mrs. Osborne Morgan in April 1887. It could well have been that it was commissioned to coincide with Morgan's 60th birthday on the 8th May 1886, as the Liverpool Mercury of the 14th August 1886, in announcing the proposed presentation of the painting to that lady, states that "The portrait, which has already been painted, is a capital likeness of the honourable gentleman...". Shaw Sparrow was residing in Bruxelles at the time of the execution and presentation of the work. Although he would probably have known the sitter from his youth in Wrexham (he was an associate of Shaw's father), he might also have been working from photographs of Osborne Morgan sent to him while he was abroad.

Attached is a composite of the two images for consideration.

Edgar Wilkins Hanley shot himself to death in 1886, aged 31. Attached is the report of his death and inquest from the Islington Gazette of Monday 25th October 1886.

Martin Hopkinson,

It is a pity that no one has yet found an image of an oil portrait by Shaw Sparrow for comparison

Kieran Owens,

Perhaps it is still in his extended family's possession.

Martin Hopkinson,

I do not think that we have enough visual evidence to make a decision between these two artists

Kieran Owens,

Surely if the image of George Osborne Morgan, in court dress, aged 55, as represented in The Strand magazine, is one related to the portrait by Edgar Wilkins Hanley as exhibited at the RA in 1882, when he was 27 (and in which year Walter Shaw Sparrow was just 20), then the best that can be said at this stage is that this discussion's work is not by Hanley, whatever about it being by Sparrow. Would Hanley have painted two versions of the same sitter? He seems to have ceased exhibiting at the RA in 1883, three years before his suicide, and the inquest into his death does mention that for several years he was under medical care for a series of nervous disorders. If Hanley, as the painter of the 1882 "Court Dress" portrait is excluded as the painter of this discussion's portrait, then it is either most likely by Shaw Sparrow or by another artist altogether, of the latter of whom there is no obvious record.

Martin, the proposition, therefore, is that this discussion's image is that of the oil portrait by Shaw Sparrow from 1886/1887.

The details of the gift of this portrait to Bangor University, of which George Osborne Morgan was a principal lay officer, as Vice-President, in c.1882, are most probably vital to the successful conclusion of this discussion. ( See https://bit.ly/2OICS7M ). As Barbara Bryant has been requesting for the past four years, can someone from Gwynedd Museum and Art Gallery contact Bangor University to see what of relevance they might have in their archives?

Kieran Owens,

My apologies Martin. I realise that you mean it is a pity that no one has yet found an image of any other oil portrait by Shaw Sparrow for comparison. I will endeavour to find out if any exist.

Kieran Owens,

Scott, these news cuttings do conform that Walter Shaw Sparrow painted a portrait in 1886 of George Osborne Morgan that was presented to his wife in 1887. The issue is whether it was this discussion's portrait. That is what is being currently argued by the contributors here. Some believe that this is the work that was painted by Edgar Wilkins Hanley in c. 1882, others that it was Sparrow's work of 1886. What is being sought is definitive proof that it is by one or the other, or even that it was a totally different artist altogether. Only when that proof can be supplied can the artist's identity be confirmed.

Kieran Owens,

Martin, the Wrexham Advertiser, of Saturday 30th November 1895, reports that Wrexham Corporation accepted the offer of a portrait by Walter Shaw Sparrow of the late Sir Evan Morris (born c.1842) who had died on Friday 18th April 1890, aged 48. The Llangollen Advertiser Denbighshire Merionethshire and North Wales Journal of the 25th April 1890 ran an extensive obituary of the deceased man.

The portrait is reported to have been accepted for hanging in the Wrexham Council Chamber. It could possibly have been painted by Sparrow (then aged c.27) to commemorate Sir Evan's knighthood by Queen Victoria on the 24th August 1889, during her visit to the Borough (See attached memorial plaque and also https://bit.ly/2ncc3MJ ).

I cannot find a portrait of Sir Evan Morris on the ArtUK site, but perhaps the original it is still hanging in Wrexham's Council Chamber, or at least be safely in storage somewhere in its archives.

Given that Sir Evan's portrait was painted by Sparrow c. 1889, and Sparrow's portrait of George Osborne Morgan was painted three years or less in 1886, a comparison of the two works might help confirm this discussion's painting as being by Shaw Sparrow.








Martin Hopkinson,

Given Sparrow's later prominence as an art critic , and the lack of visual knowledge of the portraits by him and Hanley, who died young, I would suggest that the topic deserves airing in a scholarly art journal such as The British Art Journal, which reaches a different audience than the readers of artuk.org . A short article there might well be both a good way to draw attention to artuk.org, as well as perhaps encourage an extended debate at to the attribution of this portrait. Study of Welsh late nineteenth century portraits is in its infancy, and I suspect rather few Welsh historians and local historians, antiquarians , and students of the history of art are yet involved in artuk.org.

Scott Thomas Buckle,

Kieran, I had read this discussion to date, and was aware that the authorship of Gwynedd Museum and Art Gallery's portrait of Sir George Osborne Morgan had not yet been established. I posted the two cuttings to clarify that the portrait presented to Osborne Morgan's wife in 1887 was by Water Shaw Sparrow and not by his brother Wilfrid or another artist with the same surname

Although not illustrated, Walter Shaw Sparrow's "Memories of life and art through sixty years" details Walter's career as an artist and may provide clues to other portraits that he produced. The Osborne Morgan commission and his thoughts on the sitter are outlined on pages 168-173. A digital copy of the book is available here: https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/005722060

Now I know how to kick start a moribund Art Detective discussion! Just propose a controversial attribution. Thank you for all these recent comments.
Yes, the crux of the matter is that Shaw Sparrow was a successful art critic/writer but not a successful painter since there seem to be very few of his works recorded and he did not pursue a career as a professional painter. Hanley, although evidently an unhappy man who died young and hence had a relatively small oeuvre, did exhibit at a professional art institution as preeminent as the Royal Academy. Let me get back to this later today with one or two more comments.

Martin Hopkinson,

We need to check the regional exhibition catalogues for the period, particularly the Royal Cambrian Academy, the Liverpool Autumn Exhibitions , the Royal Manchester Institute and the Birmingham Society of Artists which may throw up other portraits of the sitter, as well as other pictures by Hanley and Sparrow
We do not know if Sparrow ever attempted to exhibit at the RA. By no means all regional artists did. The fact that few works are yet known by either artist in insufficient to rule either of them out

Martin Hopkinson,

For the RMI the fullest run outside Manchester is probably that in the Paul Mellon Centre Library in Bedford Square
This painting is of decent quality . So one should be able to find comparable work

Martin Hopkinson,

Where did Hanley train? Sparrow was a pupil of Legros at the Slade for 15 years and at the Academie des Beaux Arts in Brussels from 1880 . He remained in Brussels until 1888, becoming a friend of Fernand Khnopff. He maintained a studio in Brussels . In my opinion, this portrait could be interpreted as shows Belgian influence in its fluidity.
He sold some paintings when in Brussels. We do not yet whether he exhibited in Belgium.

Hello Martin. Yes, Sparrow did exhibited in Brussels in 1882 and 1885, as well as in Wrexham (in 1883), Glasgow, Liverpool and Manchester. His last recorded exhibited work was in 1887. He actually lived in Brussels for seven years, according to Wikipedia.

Martin Hopkinson,

Unfortunately one will need to go to Brussels to consult the relevant catalogues of the Salon de Bruxelles. Only the 1884 catalogue is in the National Art Library [the BL's copy is destroyed]
I do not know if the Belgian newspapers of the 1880s have been digitised yet.
But where did Hanley train?

Martin Hopkinson,

according to the Bodleian, just 9 Brussels newspapers had been digitised by 2015 and can be searched online at BelgicaPress for 1831-1919- I will check

Martin Hopkinson,

You can access the digitised newspapers through the Bibliotheque royale de Belgique

Martin, there is not much known about Hanley. He was a London artist, as Royal Academy catalogues indicate. His father, as we know from the cutting Kieran helpfully found, was a barrister, so Edgar was unlikely to have been impoverished. Many questions remain.

Martin Hopkinson,

Sparrow is described as having 'un renom prenote' as a portrait painter and poet in Le Soir 11 April 1888 in a brief review of his comedy 'The Two Caps' at the Salle Malibran in Brussels [ in which he himself was one of the actors]

Martin Hopkinson,

Sparrow's extensive correspondence with the publisher John Lane[c.450 letters] is the Harry Ransom Library , University of Texas, but is unlikely to refer back to the period in which we are interested.
The small number of George Osborne Morgan papers recorded by the National Archives do not look to be likely to contain anything of relevance

Gosh, great find and what a coincidence that it is the only art work by Shaw Sparrow found thus far, and in addition it has an Osborne Morgan connection. I'll try for a fuller image from the gallery.
Thank you for searching the Welsh language newspapers.

E Jones,

I have looked through the relevant Welsh language newspapers and there are very few extra details available specifically with regards to the painting, more than we know already from the English editions. Some have clearly borrowed and translated information, from Welsh to English and English to Welsh.

The article referenced earlier in the thread by Mr Hopkinson from Sept.1886 simply says that "Plans are afoot in the Denbigh area to present Lady Osborne Morgan with a gift, of a painting of her husband. The painting has already been produced by Mr Shaw Sparrow of Brussels, son of Mr James Sparrow, Gwersyllt Hall near Wrexham and has excellent artistry. It is the intention to have a presentation in the Autumn....."

Sir George Osborne Morgan was also the first ever Vice-Chairman of the University of Wales.

It was formed as a federal University in 1893 with three foundation colleges. Although he held responsibility for all the Campuses i.e. University College Wales (Aberystwyth), University College South Wales (Cardiff) and University College North Wales (Bangor). Bangor was the closest to his constituency.

He himself was was awarded a number of Scholarships as a student, after his death his wife was very involved at the University and also created a Scholarship in his name.

Incidentally there appears to be an antique shop in Kent that is currently selling an oil sketch by Shaw Sparrow of a 'Man at Rest'.
They are selling it as:
'Here is an oil on canvas of a man resting and having a smoke, verso on back reveals it is of a Mr Osborne Morgan from Derbyshire.  The work is by Walter Shaw Sparrow (1862-1940), who was also a writer on British art and architecture.  Frame measures 11.5 inches by 8.25 inches.'

Clearly not Osborne Morgan, but interesting all the same. I expect it is supposed to read Denbighshire rather than Derbyshire. Maybe it was something that he'd once owned.
If this is correct could there be an equally small monogram somewhere on the painting if it were by Shaw Sparrow?

http://www.downlanehall.co.uk/recently-arrived/oil-man-at-rest-walter-shaw-sparrow

Kieran Owens,

A report in the Illustrated London News, of Saturday 15th December 1877, detailing the successes of students at the Royal Academy of Arts, cites Edgar Hanley (when he was 22 years old) as the recipient of a silver medal prize awarded for 'Drawing of a Head from the Life'. It was presented to him by Sir Francis Grant at Burlington House on the evening of the previous Monday 9th December. Perhaps the RA still holds records of its student body for that and several previous years, which might contain details of Hanley's time as a student there.

Also, attached, is the list of Hanley's works that were exhibited at the RA.

Further, an alternative report on the inquest into his death mentions that he had been bed-ridden for two years prior to his suicide in 1886, which possibly explains when he stopped exhibiting works at the RA after 1883.

On the basis of the above, might it be assumed that Hanley was incapacitated after 1883/1884, and thus if this discussion's painting depicts Osborne as older than 55 (as compared to the Strand image of him, then this painting is unlikely to be by Hanley.

Osmund Bullock,

Barbara, I think the 'Brussels 1882 and 1885' & 'Wrexham 1883' in the entry for (W S) Sparrow in British Artists 1880-1940 (Johnson & Greutzner) refer to his address rather than places he exhibited. J&G covered only British galleries & societies; and though they checked the catalogues for nearly 50 of them (not always accurately, alas), there is no Wrexham venue among them.

However, as you say he *did* exhibit between 1882 & 87 two works at Glasgow (Inst of the Fine Arts), one at Manchester (City Art Gallery) and eight at Liverpool (Walker Art Gallery). The first mention of the Sparrow portrait and its proposed presentation is very slightly earlier than stated, on 20th August 1886, when it appears in several N. Wales papers (it had "already been painted"). So there is a fair chance it may be one of the 11 works exhibited.

The National Art Library seems to have the relevant Glasgow and Liverpool catalogues in their collection, so worth a visit. However the V&A's Madejski Garden paddling pool - charming, but ill-conceived, as it's become a very popular, very noisy kids' lido directly below the NAL windows - currently makes serious work there impossible for me. I'll try and get there if the weather cools down. I can't at the moment see the right Manchester catalogue(s)...but then I find the new 'improved' NAL catalogue as difficult to use as I do the library itself in summer!

Osmund Bullock,

That's not to say that he *didn't* exhibit at Brussels, but there's no record of it so far. In any case a portrait of a distinguished British sitter painted in Britain for a British client is more likely to have been shown here than in Belgium - I imagine that Liverpool, being the closest to N. Wales, is the most likely venue.

Kieran Owens,

Barbara, regarding your enquiries about Hanley's status as an RA student, are you awaiting information or was there any specific response to date?

Martin Hopkinson,

Osmund, you need to go to the Paul Mellon Centre in Bloomsbury Square to see the Manchester exhibition catalogues . In the NAL you can find a 'Graves' compiled in 4 volumes for all the Glasgow Institute exhibitions up to 1989 compiled by Roger Billcliffe, published 1990-2
Alex Kidson is in the course of doing the same for the Liverpool Autumn exhibitions of the 1870s as a pilot project [ unfortunately not the 1880s]

Martin Hopkinson,

No other Wrexham art exhibition pre 1900 is recorded by Copac

Kieran Owens,

For what it might be worth in mentioning, in the 1881 UK Census, Edgar W. Hanley, aged 25, and described at artist/painter, was a lodger at No. 1, Fitzroy Street, and was sharing this accommodation with the artist William Hatherell (1855 - 1928), also aged 25 (see The Art of The Illustrator by Percy V. Bradshaw, published by The Press Art School, Forest Hill, London 1918).

Osmund Bullock,

Thanks for that, Martin. I was indeed going to check the four-vol Glasgow exhibitors dictionary (which is on open shelves at NAL) first - but I wondered if there might be more details in the original catalogues. Later Glasgow ones were illustrated, though not as early as the 1880s, I think. Liverpool is the most likely venue, and it's no great task to check six years - but of course even if Sparrow's portrait of Sir George *was* shown there (or at Glasgow or Manchester), there may be nothing to help us associate it with - or disassociate it from - ours: I doubt that any of the catalogues give sizes.

Martin Hopkinson,

George R Halkett published illustrated notes on the Glasgow exhibitions 1878-82 . His similar publications on the Liverpool Manchester and Birmingham exhibitions seem to be only on 1870s exhibitions

Martin Hopkinson,

The British Library copies of the LAE 1879-1884 may be more usable than those in the NAL ,which are in poor condition

Kieran Owens,

The two attached clippings might be of interest. The first, from the Wrexham Advertiser of Saturday 15th August 1885, is an exhibition notice regarding Shaw Sparrow for Wrexham and Liverpool. The second is a creditors notice from The Times Wednesday 24th November 1886 relating to the death of Edgar Wilkins Hanley.

Martin Hopkinson,

Hanley's 5 exhibits at 4 exhibitions of the Society of British Artists between 1878 and 1880/1 did not include any portraits
Sparrow did not exhibit there

Martin Hopkinson,

P H Rathbone was the most discriminating art collector in Liverpool at this period. Edward Morris published a long article on him in the mid 1970s [ I will search out the exact reference] and there is much more on him in his and Timothy Stevens, A History of the Walker Art Gallery 1873-2000, Liverpool , 2013

Martin Hopkinson,

That Hope Street show is quite a find, Kieran. I am enquiring among Liverpool cognoscenti as to any knowledge there about Mr Davies' activities

Martin Hopkinson,

He might be connected to J L Davies , financier and dealer of works in art recorded in G Eugene Harfield , Commercial Directory of the Jews of the United Kingdom , 1894 which I am having difficulty in unravelling on line
NOT in the British Library, but in Southampton University Library and University College, London

Martin Hopkinson,

This Davis not likely as he had no e - and I have found him in Brighton!

Martin Hopkinson,

Liverpool resources for exploration - the Walker Art Gallery library which has many newspaper cuttings and The Athenaeum Library, Liverpool

Edward Morris' article referred to above Walker Art Gallery Annual Report and Bulletin, VI, 1975-6 , pp. 59-67

I do not think that there was an auction after Rathbone's death - nor do I think that a complete list of his collection has yet been found - but stand to be corrected!

Kieran Owens,

The Davies in question is Charles Davies, Military Tailor, Hosier, Hatter, Glover and General Outfitter, of 58, Hope Street, Wrexham. A search of the Wrexham Advertiser returns several references to him in the 1880s.

Martin Hopkinson,

There is an album of photographs of some of the paintings in Rathbone collection in the Walker Art Gallery [ donated by Mrs Cotton, widow of Colonel Vere Cotton ]

It would be worth looking in the NPG Archive for photographs of Sir George Osborn Morgan

Martin Hopkinson,

Mrs Cotton, apparently, identified those paintings which she could with annotations for the Walker Art Gallery staff . Her husband had been for a long time Chairman of the Walker Art Gallery Committee . Colonel Vere Egerton Cotton 1888-1970. His widow Elfreda Helen Moore lived to be c. 100 , dying in 1992. The photo album may well have arrived after I left the staff at Liverpool in 1977. I have a very vague memory of meeting her!

Kieran Owens,

Regarding Edgar Hanley, for anyone with access to the National Archives at Kew, it might be worth going to have a look at the 15 entry forms and photographs for drawings that were deposited at the Copyright Office between 1877 and 1881, which were registered to William Axon Mansell. His company produced a series of late-Victorian sentimental cards, of which a copy of one, entitled 'Olivia', is attached, along with three other works by Hanley that have been identified from the NA's entires.

https://bit.ly/2LYX7Al

Several of the titles of these 15 works correspond to some that are listed on Hanley's RA exhibition list and might be useful in identifying any of his oil paintings that remain untitled or even unrecognised.

Martin Hopkinson,

Please could the museum look at the back of the painting for labels and inscriptions and numbers and letters, and if possible take digital photographs of them

Martin, I have information from the museum and will post this soon. It's just a busy time and while Art Detective is a priority, there are other things going on.
I also years ago checked the NPG Archive. There was nothing that would help or rest assured I would have posted it.
Let me amass what I have, in the next days (not today), and then we can take it from there.
The discussion is going along really well and I hope all the comments will continue.

Martin Hopkinson,

Many thanks , Barbara. I am very glad that you checked the NPG Archive!

Martin Hopkinson,

The references to Rathbone in Morris and Stevens' The Walker Art Gallery are to be found on pp. 10-14,16, 20-23, 25, 31, 35-6, 40-42, 45-6, 48-52, 59,62, 78, 125, 174, 188, 224, which records his publications on p.266
Rathbone was a Liberal like Sir George Osborne Morgan
There is more on him in Morris, Victorian and Edwardian Paintings in the Walker Art Gallery and at Sudley Art Gallery , 1996, pp.8-15

Kieran Owens,

A consideration of Edgar Hanley’s RA submissions might be worthwhile:

From 27, Hanley Road, Hornsey Rise:

1878 - 1220 - Weary
No information

1878 - 1226 - RALEGH BULLER PHILLPOTTS
The only son of William Francis ‘Frank’ Phillpotts and Gertrude Caroline Buller, Ralegh was born on the 22nd October 1871 at 3, Gloucester Terrace, Kensington, and would have been 7 years old at the time of Hanley’s portrayal of him. His father was a Lincoln’s Inn Barrister.

1879 - 12 - THE OLD ALOE
The Athenaeum (page 734) says of this work: ‘12, The Old Aloe, by Mr. E. Hanley, has no poetry, but the huge old aloe is painted and drawn with skill and care.’ On page 828 of the same issue there is mention that ‘Mr. Mansell has sent two photographs of drawings by Mr. E. Hanley, reproduced by Willis’s Patent Platinotype....’

1879 - 1195 - UNDINE
No information

1879 - 1196 - “SHY”
No information

1879 - 1241 - PASSION FLOWERS
Described in the Copyright Office’s records at the National Archives as: ‘Drawing ¾ length, full face, of a girl with a book in one hand, passion flowers in background'. The Illustrated London News of Saturday 7th June 1879 reports that ‘Messrs. Mansell, of 316, Oxford Street, have published a photograph of a drawing by Mr. Edgar Hanley in the Royal Academy Exhibition, entitled “Passion Flowers”.’ The Graphic, of Saturday 16th August, states that ‘We have to acknowledge the receipt of two of Mr. Edgar Hanley’s photographic drawings, of which one, “The Passion Flower”, a half-length figure of a girl, is not wanting in refinement and delicacy.’

From 1, Fitzroy Square:

1880 - 126 - ALOES
The Bristol Mercury of Tuesday 8th March 1881, in a report on the opening night of the “graphic conversatione” at the Bristol Academy, mentions ‘Edgar Hanley’s effective drawing “Aloes”.’

1880 - 560 - BY ORDER OF THE KING
No information

1880 - 1021 - FLOWERS FOR THE CARNIVAL
No information

1880 - 1249 - LA TRAVIATA
Described in the Copyright Office’s records at the National Archives as: 'Drawing of a girl's head reclining on a pillow entitled “La Traviata''.’

1880 - 1251 - BRENDA, DAUGHTER OF FRANCIS W. MACLEAN ESQ.
Francis William Maclean (1844 - 1913) ( https://bit.ly/2OiYOFu ) was a Q.C. & M.P.. In 1881 he was living at 9, Southwell Gardens, Chelsea, with his wife Martha (aged 35) and his two daughters Isabel Brenda (aged 6) (1874 - 7th April 1916) and Violet Leila (aged 3) (c.30th June 1878 - 22nd April 1964). This work by Hanley would be of Brenda Maclean aged 6 years old.

1880 - 1455 - WHERE THE ORANGES RIPEN
No information

1881 - 84 - THE CHILDREN OF V. A. LITKIE
According to the 1881 Census, Valerian Arnold Litkie (aged 34; born in Poland) a Cape Diamond Merchant, lived in Tottenham Lane, Hornsey, with his wife Johanna Catherina (aged 33, born in Cape Town), and their children Maximillian Mackenzie (aged 10), Valeria Albertina Antoine (aged 8), George Valerian Theodore (aged 6) and Edgar Charles (aged 4). He was a director of the Kimberley North Block Diamond Mining Company, with offices at 86, Hatton Garden. In the 1881 Census it mentions that also living with him is his niece, Henrietta Wilkins (aged 9), who shares the same surname as Edgar’s middle name, so perhaps there is a family connection. In Tinsley’s Magazine, Vol. XXIX, from July to December 1881, Alice Meynell, in an article entitled ‘Young Art at the Royal Academy’, describes Hanley’s RA painting thus: ‘A boy in green, a boy in red, a boy in yellow and a girl in white - constituting that thing difficult to manage, a family-portrait group - disport themselves in Edgar Hanley’s “Children of Mr. V. A. Litkie”. The execution of this large picture may be considered to be not wanting in a certain vigour, though it is in some parts rather coarse.’

1881 - 970 - MRS. FRANCIS W. McLEAN
She was Martha 'Mattie' Sowerby, of Benwell Tower, Northumberland, who married Francis W. McLean in August 1869.

1881 - 1216 - V. A. LITKIE, ESQ.
As mentioned above, Valerian Arnold Litkie (1847 - 1920).

From 54, Devonshire Terrace:

1882 - 388 - BRENDA, DAUGHTER OF FRANCIS W. McLEAN ESQ.
Possibly a re-presentation of the same work from 1880, or an updated portrayal of the same girl as listed above, though now two years older, aged 8.

1882 - 510 - THE RT. HON. G. OSBORNE MORGAN, Q.C., M.P., HER MAJESTY’S ADVOCATE-GENERAL
The subject of this discussion.

1882 - 1242 - GERTRUDE, DAUGHTER OF T. HARDWICK COWIE, ESQ.
Thomas Hardwick Cowie was the Advocate-General of Bengal from 1862 - 1871, and was appointed a Q.C. in 1873. Gertrude Helen was his second daughter, who was born in Calcutta on the 21st April 1862. On the 17th August 1881, aged 19, she married Thomas Alexander Hatchard, eldest son of the late Rev. Thomas Goodwin Hatchard, D.D., Bishop of Mauritius. This portrait might have been commissioned in light of that wedding, but in any case would show Gertrude either just before or after that ceremony, as a 19-year-old girl.

1883 - 293 - VIOLET, DAUGHTER OF FRANCIS W. MACLEAN ESQ.
As listed above, this is Violet Leila Maclean (c.30th June 1878 - 22nd April 1964), now aged 5.

1883 - 1335 - MISS VALERIA LITKIE
As mentioned above, this is Valeria Albertina Antoine Litkie. The Dublin Daily Express, of Saturday 7th December 1895, reported that “A marriage has been arranged....between Captain Arthur Banbury, late Royal Irish Fusiliers, only son of Mr. George Banbury, Madras Civil Service (retired)....and Valerie (sic), only daughter of Mr. Valerian Litkie.” Valeri would have been 17 at the time of her wedding. In 1908, she married again, to Beni de Goldschmidt, of the 12th Austro-Hungarian Hussars.

1883 - 1340 - MRS. FAIRS
No information

1883 - 1449 - DOLLY VARDEN
A figurative work based on Dicken’s fictional character from the novel "Barnaby Rudge". Attached is a description, to accompany the above-posted image, from The Graphic of Saturday 10th November 1883.

What does all of this tell us? Principally that Edgar Wilkins Hanley had an extremely small circle of supporters/clients from an active period of work that only stretched over about six years. Access to any of the above-identified works might produce one or two of these portraits, which could then be compared to that of this discussion.

The question still remains, however. Would Hanley have likely produced two portraits of the same man over the period from his 'Court Dress' painting in 1882 and his death in 1886?

Osmund Bullock,

Although it was me who first wondered if the engraved portrait of Morgan 'aged 55' in the Strand Magazine article "may derive, via a photograph, from a painted portrait", it was only a suggestion. And in fact, on reflection, I think it's unlikely - the two earliest images of him clearly say they are "from a painting", while the 'aged 55' one merely says "from a photo, by the London Stereoscopic Company".

The LSC was a thriving business in the 1880s, and involved in all aspects of photography - it would have been wholly unexceptional for them to have taken an original portrait photo of Morgan in 1881/82, a period when, as the judge-advocate-general responsible for introducing two major, complex and highly controversial parliamentary bills, he was probably at the height of his national (as opposed to local) fame. I should perhaps add that in the latter part of the C19th (and well into the 20th) it was extremely common to refer to a photographic portrait as just a 'portrait'.

Osmund Bullock,

I remain torn between Hanley and Sparrow (assuming it is one of them). Though none of the handful of Hanley images dug up by Kieran hints at an artist who could (or at least would) have painted a portrait like this one, I am nevertheless now tending - just! - towards Hanley on circumstantial grounds: (1) As Barbara discovered (see https://bit.ly/2ASYxXR ), we know his widow owned the Hanley portrait in 1901; (2) the couple had no children who would naturally have inherited the portrait, so it is quite likely that she or her executors would have sought a new home for it that had a strong link to Sir George; (3) Bangor University, founded in 1884 as the University College of North Wales, had just such a link - as the current DNB relates, Osborne Morgan was "a keen proponent of women's education, and helped to found a women's hostel at Bangor College; an Osborne Morgan exhibition was established at the University College of North Wales (which Bangor College became) after his death to commemorate his services".

Lady Morgan died at Chelsea, London in July 1923. I don't know if by then there were any nephews or nieces of Sir George (or their descendants) still living, but none seems to have been among her executors. This makes it even more likely that an institution, rather than a family member was the recipient of Hanley's portrait. It is indeed frustrating that we don't know when and from whom Bangor acquired our work.

Martin Hopkinson,

Sparrow's exhibits at the Liverpool Autumn Exhibition 1882-4 [1885 catalogue not held by the British Library]

1882 exhibiting from 2 rue Thirisienne, Brussels
435 The Blind Man
468 Building castles in the air
Both priced at 8 guineas - so small pictures

1883
113 Qui vive ? £250 so probably large

1884
98 Guinevere £22 so not large
This was the painting bought by Philip Rathbone

He did not exhibit there 1879-81

Kieran Owens,

Would Barbara be so kind as to cite the source of her statement at the start of this discussion four years ago, and restated by Osmond above, that the Hanley portrait was still in the collection of Morgan's widow in 1901?

Walter Shaw Sparrow painted Morgan in 1886 and the work was presented to Mrs. Morgan (as she was then) in April 1887. Is is not this portrait that she had in her possession in 1901? Or did she have both Hanley's and Shaw's portraits in that year?

Is it not the next proper step, as suggested before, to find out what year Bangor University acquired the work and from whom?

Equally, the discovery of Shaw Sparrow's portrait of Sir Even Morris, should it still be in the Wrexham Council's collection, might allow for a positive comparison. After all, Sparrow describes him as one of his most generous clients, so the portrait is likely to be a good one. He also describes the commission for the Morgan portrait as one of his early ones in Belgium, and that it was a political portrait for a constituency in North Wales, near Wrexham, mainly dependent on the votes of colliers and ironworkers.

Sparrow also makes the following point, on page 165 of his memories, when negotiating with Mr. Rathbone to buy his 'gold and blue girl': "I have sold a few paintings to relatives and a good many portraits of dead persons painted from photographs." It would be interesting to know where these many portraits are now.

Kieran Owens,

Sorry, it is late...above should read Sir Evan Morris, not Sir Even Morris, and Osmund, not Osmond.

Osmund Bullock,

Kieran, Barbara gave the source for the information ("the old DNB"), and I gave a link to it - https://bit.ly/2ASYxXR (and also on archive.org & other places). You are quite right to observe that Lady Morgan seems to have had both portraits at one time or another, and that does rather undermine my argument!

It is perhaps worth comparing side-by-side our portrait with the only oil by Hanley I can find online: https://bit.ly/2OYo318 (and many other places). There was a higher-res of ours available at one stage, but that has now been taken down, so a detailed comparison is difficult. The subject matter and mood is certainly rather different, but to my eye the two portraits have quite a bit in common in terms of tone and handling of the paint - but not close enough to be definitive. See attachment.

1 attachment
Martin Hopkinson,

Sparrow's own description of Rathbone's painting suggests that it might have been vaguely Aesthetic Movement 'gold and blue girl' - Guinevere may have been a model or friend

Martin Hopkinson,

Evangeline, a tale of Acadie was a much reprinted novel by Longfellow, first published in 1848

Martin Hopkinson,

4 paintings of Longfellow's Evangeline [ all earlier than the Sparrow] can be found on artuk.org

Martin Hopkinson,

Correction!! - Evangeline was a long poem not a novel and it was one of Longfellow's most famous works - 36,000 copies had been printed in 1857. She was often chosen as a subject for paintings.
Other works on paper representing her can be found in The British Museum
The territory occupied by Acadia is now Nova Scotia., Eastern Quebec, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and part of Maine
It was a colony of France until the end of the Seven Years War

Glad to see so much more coming through about Hanley and Shaw Sparrow. Kieran thank you so much for the reviews regarding Hanley's exhibition submissions. I still have to summarize other material to post (on the weekend), but would say the very first comment in this discussion made by me 4 years ago was about Morgan's widow owning Hanley's portrait of her husband (thank you Osmund for recalling that) in 1901. And the Bonham's picture which Osmund has put next to Morgan's portrait by Hanley does not, I think, contradict a potential attribution to Hanley.
But we will carry on with the discussion. We still need to see more works of art by Shaw Sparrow. Martin, thank you for the information on Shaw Sparrow's exhibited works. He's not primarily a portraitist, is he?

Martin Hopkinson,

I agree with Osmund's argument by and large- but there remains the problem of the style of this portrait.
As Sir Evan Morris was Mayor of Wrexham , the town presumably has records of his portrait [photographic] , even if it is no longer in the care of the council.
We should also be looking out for a sale of his collection after his death
The Belgians clearly thought that WSS was a portraitist - and he himself indicates that he painted at least a small group

Martin Hopkinson,

Sir Evan Morris died early in 1890 - obit in Wrexham Advertiser
26 April 1890

The Denbighshire Archives do not appear to have anything relevant

Martin Hopkinson,

Actually rather few portraits were exhibited at the LAE in the 1880s, considering the huge size of the exhibitions

Martin Hopkinson,

Sparrow's portrait seems to have been the last which he exhibited before he turned to writing on art
Liverpool Autumn Exhibition
1888 no 85 The Right Hon G. Osborn Morgan QC MP

He had also exhibited
1886 no 48 A Blind Man 13 guineas
no 162 Missique 13 guineas

His address then was 304 Chaussee d'Ixelles, Brussels [today a very rough area]

1887 no 737 Bois de la Cambre, Brussels 10 guineas

Martin, thanks for these references. If you have established that Shaw Sparrow exhibited his portrait of Morgan in Liverpool in 1888, then what we need are some reviews of this exhibition. In a review one might hope for a fuller description of the portrait which would either rule in or out the picture under discussion.

Martin Hopkinson,

I should have added that the portrait was not for sale in the 1888 exhibition
Unfortunately by no means all the Liverpool newspapers have yet been digitised, but one should also check Manchester and Welsh newspapers
Lugt does not record any Sir Evan Morris sales , but I suspect that many provincial art sale catalogues were unknown to him

Martin Hopkinson,

Sparrow admired the portraits of Emile Wauters [1846-1923] on whose work there were articles in The Magazine of Art in 1887 and 1894, and in The Pall Magazine in 1896.
There may well be more modern publications illustrating his work.
There was a one man show of his work in Brussels in 1880
A book on him by A J Wouters was published in London in 1894
BHA and Art Index clearly should be checked. Paul Lambotte was often his correspondent. So Lambotte's writings should be checked too.
Frank Brangwyn gave one of his later portraits to the William Morris Gallery [ see artuk.org]

Kieran Owens,

Regarding Philip Henry Rathbone's involvement with Walter Shaw Sparrow, the following description from Liverpool Museum's website may be of interest:

"Philip Rathbone was a younger son of one of the great Liverpool merchant and ship-owning families. He began his career in insurance but in 1867 joined the Liverpool City Council where he became the dominant figure on the council committees that controlled both the Walker Art Gallery and the Liverpool Autumn Exhibitions. Under the influence of Ruskin, Rathbone emphasised the value of high art to the community at a time when his own Liberal party was favouring municipal retrenchment. He was largely responsible for Thomas Stirling Lee’s innovative reliefs on St George’s Hall (1882 - 1894), Liverpool, the creation of the Roscoe Chair in art history at Liverpool University (1885) and the establishment of the annual congresses of the National Association for the Advancement of Art and its Application to Industry (1888 - 1890)."

The Liverpool Mercury of the 6th June 1888 interestingly reports that "Councillor P. H. Rathbone, John Davies, T. B. Hall and W. J. Lunt have been appointed the Hanging Committee of the Liverpool Autumn Exhibition." Presumably Sparrow was included in the 1888 exhibition through some or all of Rathbone's support.



Martin Hopkinson,

the Liverpool Mercury did not mention the portrait in its September review. This is the only digitised Liverpool newspaper for the period
By the late 1880s reviews of art exhibitions were much shorter than earlier in the 19th century.
7 Liverpool newspapers covering 1888 that may have reviewed the exhibition are available in microfilm in the British Library
Have any reviews of the Hanley portrait been found?

Kieran Owens,

The Guardian of the 1st September 1888 previews the Liverpool Autumn Exhibition but does not mention the Sparrow portrait. Equally, the Leeds Mercury of the same date gives the exhibition a long review, mentioning that 1,363 pictures were being exhibited. Over its 73 day run, 16,091 catalogues were sold, though only 127 works were sold. It also does not mention the Sparrow portrait.

Osmund Bullock,

The review of the 1888 exhibition in The Times of 5th Sept does not mention it either.

Kieran Owens,

The attached is part of a review of the Royal Academy exhibition in April 1882, as it appeared in the Wrexham Advertiser of Saturday 29th of that month. It specifically refers to the three-quarter length portrait of George Osborne Morgan standing in Court dress. The description of the face, by someone who obviously knows Morgan, reads: "Although the face is very good, yet it seems to lack something of the expression of the original, so that one would not call it a striking likeness. It is hard to say what the one thing wanting is, but personally I should incline to think that the face in the portrait is rather severe or not so genial as the face of the original usually is."

Is this the face that one sees in this discussion's portrait? Is it severe and lacking geniality? Surely it rather shows the face of a man of immense and calm dignity, the sort of expression that might be desired in a portrait that has been commissioned by loyal supporters and that would be readily acceptable by that gentleman's wife as a present.

Attached also, for interest, is a clipping relevant to the 1887 Sparrow portrait.




Kieran Owens,

It would be fascinating to see the Address referred to in the several reports regarding the portrait presentation (and in the advertisement mentioned above). It is somewhere described as being in book format, and, as these usually do, might included a miniature portrait, in this case of G. Osborne Morgan, possibly based on Edgar Hanley's work. Might it have made its way into the Welsh National Archives?

Martin, projecting back to your reference to Shaw Sparrow's portrait of Morgan in the Liverpool Autumn Exhibition in 1888:
"Sparrow's portrait seems to have been the last which he exhibited before he turned to writing on art
Liverpool Autumn Exhibition
1888 no 85 The Right Hon G. Osborn Morgan QC MP"
What is the source?
Because the catalogues for the exhibition that year give another picture as no. 85 in the Autumn Exh. And as others have noted, the reviews of the show don't mention Sparrow's portrait of Morgan.
Did you mean another year, as it cannot be 1888?
no. 85 in the LAE of 1888 was George White's "Autumn Palace Paved with Gold". It is mentioned in the review of the exhibition in the Liverpool Mercury on 29 September 1888 as no. 85.

Martin Hopkinson,

Barbara

I will go back and check when the NAL reopens
Certainly the catalogue which I consulted was NOT illustrated
I will also check my notes

Martin Hopkinson,

My notes certainly read 1888 - so something is clearly awry

Martin Hopkinson,

M B Hall's Fantine [ no 64 in your first extract] dates from 1886 and is in the Walker Art Gallery, and I remember it well, but I have not seen this catalogue

Martin Hopkinson,

Barbara - do you have this catalogue to hand as illustration no 83 Covenanters by W H Weatherhead may be related to a watercolour in Gallery Oldham which reads the date on it as 1889

Martin, sorry but I don't have that page readily available. We will get to the bottom of this one way or another but it might have to wait until the NAL reopens.

Martin Hopkinson,

At least your attachments help to date two as yet undated pictures 'Wolf! Wolf!' by E A Waterlow [York Museums Trust] and Hartlepool's 'Harvest Time, Hampshire' by Henry H Parker!

I will get back to the NAL in early September
May be the 1889 catalogue was bound next to the 1887 one?

Martin Hopkinson,

The discussion has been going so long that I forgot that I posted the correct date 4 years ago! Very sorry for messing everybody up!

Ok, that clarifies. Now back to where we were before--any exhibition reviews of the Liverpool Autumn exhibition of 1887 which might mention Shaw Sparrow's portrait?

Martin Hopkinson,

The possibility that Sparrow exhibited in Glasgow, but he is not included in Roger Billcliife's The Royal Glasgow Institute of the Fine Arts 1861- 1989, 1990-2

Martin Hopkinson,

Hanley exhibited once at the Liverpool Autumn Exhibition

1880 no 93 Flowers for the carnival 18 guineas

Kieran Owens,

Whether the "figures" referred to the review are of individuals remains to be discovered.

Osmund Bullock,

Even if Gwynedd can't find out from their or Bangor Uni's records when and how the portrait was acquired, could they not at least examine the canvas to see if it's been cut down? If it hasn't been reduced in size, then it quite simply *cannot* be Sparrow's 3/4-length work "standing by a table". And in the absence of any mention of another portrait, Barbara's conclusion that it's by Hanley becomes almost certainly correct.

Failing that I feel we're rather going round in circles - if there were any images or fuller descriptions of either portrait out there (and findable), I think they'd have emerged by now.

Martin Hopkinson,

We should not assume that Sparrow only painted a single portrait. It would be by no means unusual for an artist to paint more than one of the same sitter at roughly the same time.

These image from Kieran do give us something to go on. Well done for adding those to the discussion.
Osmund, I have been waiting to hear from Gwynedd without luck. But I will summarise what I have today because they may not reply soon.

Martin Hopkinson,

One of the biggest problems here is that we do not really know what Shaw Sparrow's paintings looked like. As far as I know there is no equivalent of the Rijksbureau voor Kunsthistorische Documentatie in Belgium. Neither is there an equivalent of the Witt Library or the National Portrait Gallery in Belgium. I stand to be corrected. So unless there is unequivocal evidence on the back of this portrait , or in Gwynedd's archives, it is very unlikely that we can solve this attribution satisfactorily.
I do not think that one can yet say that the paintings by Hanley so far presented to us are at all close to the style of this work, neither can they be said to be so distant to rule him out.

Yes, we are hard put to be definitive about an attribution. But I am not convinced that the career of Shaw Sparrow as a painter has that much to offer regarding the portrait under discussion. Sparrow's training in Brussels has come into focus thanks to Martin and others. We do know (thanks to Kieran) that in 1885 he had an exhibition on Hope Street in Liverpool. Thanks to E. Jones, we've seen exactly one work of art by him--an oil study which seems to have been owned by Osborne Morgan (no further info from the gallery; I will persist). We know his "already painted" portrait (1886) of Osborne Morgan was presented to Lady Morgan in April 1887 (thanks Kieran and Scott for the references). And with Paul Kettlewell's attachment of the full article of the presentation ceremony from the Wrexham Advertiser (16.4.87), we know that the portrait was a 3/4 length of Morgan standing near a table. Martin tells us that the portrait was exhibited at the Liverpool Autumn Exhibition in 1887 (no. 85) but there do not seem to be any reviews mentioning it (at least not in digitally accessible newspapers/journals--there are others of course). It was not referred to in the DNB entry in 1901. Presumably by that point, it might well have been given away by Lady Morgan, perhaps at the time of her husband's death in 1897, to one of the institutions with which Osborne Morgan was associated.
We know from Kieran quoting from Shaw Sparrow's own book that he had painted many portraits from photographs.
It is to be expected that familial, friendship and political networks in Wrexham fostered art patronage. This is surely how Shaw Sparrow come to paint Osborne Morgan's portrait--via his wealthy, colliery-owning father James Sparrow.
I would just like to attach these two unattributed portraits depicting Shaw Sparrow's parents from Art UK (Flintshire Record Office) (most likely to be c.1880 not 1890s) because I wonder if it might be likely that their own son might have painted them: https://bit.ly/2OLlH4z
https://bit.ly/2MON4tW

Martin Hopkinson,

Hope Street in Wrexham see Kieran's post. Many thanks Barbara for pointing out the portraits of Sparrow's parents - of course he is a strong candidate as their author . We need a costume specialist's advice as their approximate date

Osmund Bullock,

The parental portraits are, I think, significantly earlier. I will immediately defer to more expert knowledge, but my feeling is for the late 1860s on fashion grounds, but drifting into the 1870s when slow-moving tastes in older provincial sitters are allowed for - and that would sit better with sitter's apparent ages. Certainly I don't believe they can be by their son Walter, who wasn't born till 1862; and even if theoretically just possible early works by him, they don't look to me like something a young artist feeling his way would produce - these are accomplished, if workaday portraits by a very experienced hand. And could that be a signature on Mrs Sparrow's canvas bottom left, directly below the hand resting on her thigh? Probably not - I have 'form', I'm afraid, in imagining things written on low-res images...

Kieran Owens,

An analysis and comparison of the frames and canvases or the two portraits of Sparrow's parents with this discussion's portrait might be revealing. It might also be that Mrs. Sparrow is wearing a collar of Bruxelles lace, which might also help date the work, as it might have been sent or brought back to her by her son. The fan might also have originated from there. Both portraits have a very photorealistic feel to them, and if by Sparrow, might have been executed from photographs.

Well, yes, I had also thought by c.1880 could easily be later 1870s, and I take the point that in terms of dress etc. they may even show the sitters at an earlier date. And for that Shaw Sparrow would have been too young. But by his own account he painted portraits from photographs (and as Kieran alluded above) he might have painted his parents from earlier photographs of them. I won't push the point; just thought worth bringing these portraits into the discussion as context.

Osmund Bullock,

Oh no, they're very interesting additions, Barbara; and on reflection - in the context of Sparrow's painting from photographs, which for some reason I'd ignored - I was far too hasty in dismissing him as a possible artist, whatever their apparent date may be. I quite agree with Kieran that they have a slightly photographic feel to them.

Martin Hopkinson,

The portrait, however, for which we are trying to establish the painter, is clearly not based on a photograph.

Now to Hanley. Thanks Jacinto for the best image so far of the Bonham's picture by Hanley. His signature is quite clear.
To summarise some of the material we know about this artist Edgar Wilkins Hanley (1856-86). As I noted four years ago, Hanley painted a portrait of George Osborne Morgan that was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1882. It was reviewed in several places, including the Art Journal which described it as showing Morgan in court dress. Again, as I had noted, the shape behind the figure in the portrait under discussion shows what seems to be a "wig-bag" a traditional element of male court dress which hangs at the back of the neck over the collar. Andrea noted that the Wrexham Advertiser of 29 April 1882 called the portrait a 3/4 length in court dress and of course our picture is not 3/4 length. It also said it is not a striking likeness and is rather sterner than the original.
Shaw Sparrow's portrait of Morgan was also 3/4 length, so in both cases what we have is either a sketch for a final picture or a cut down portrait (as Osmund noted). Osmund's comment two years ago that the figure and head of the picture under discussion is slightly and oddly off centre, which might well indicate it had been cut down.
The Strand Magazine (1896) images show what I think are engravings after photographs, nothing to do with either Hanley's portrait of 1882 or Shaw Sparrow's of 1886. If these had illustrated either oil portrait, I think that fact would have been indicated in the article and as a caption to the image.
Shaw Sparrow was painting a friend of the family who he knew well, intended to be presented to the wife of the sitter. Hanley was painting a commissioned portrait that went to the RA with the title (as Christopher Foley reminded us) that referred to him as "Her Majesty's Advocate General", although we do not know what the reason for the commission was, we know that Lady Morgan kept Hanley's portrait and had it in 1901. I also think that it does not have much to do with Welsh portraiture and is more an example of a London artist painting a prominent government sitter in London.
Background on Hanley (other than what I and others have posted above re his family) indicates that he was professionally trained artist of some skill. He was an RA probationer in July 1875 and a fully fledged student in January 1876. As Kieran told us, Hanley won a silver medal for a drawing of a head in December 1877. He exhibited at the RA and elsewhere from 1878 to 1883 when it seems his mental health deteriorated. Hanley produced some copyrighted images of women's heads, as Kieran noted, further giving us some very useful information from reviews about Hanley's exhibited works, especially the portraits, in which he clearly had some speciality in the course of his short career.
We could do with some more descriptions of Hanley's portrait of Morgan, but the trawl for reviews has been pretty thorough and we may not get any more information that way.
What I think is quite interesting is to compare the images that Kieran added very recently from Academy Notes showing Hanley's portraits of Violet Maclean and Brenda Maclean. These are new to the discussion and show what I believe are characteristic stylistic traits of Hanley's style: the very frontal presentation of the sitter with a viewpoint from slightly below the figure combined with strong lighting of the figure against a flat background. These too are found in the Bonham's Hanley. More to follow.

Jacinto Regalado,

The portrait in question appears (to me) to be differently painted than the Hanley portrait linked above (which has a pre-Raphaelite feel, even if watered down, and is vaguely reminiscent of someone like Burne-Jones, albeit more domestic).

Christopher Foley,

The museum lists the size of the painting on ArtUK as 76.5 x 60.7, though it is not clear whether this is the "sight" size as measured frontally in the frame, or the stretcher/canvas size, as measured from the back. This equates to 30.1 x 23.9 inches, which is close (but not conclusively so) to the standard English size portrait canvas of 30 x 25 inches, which was the norm for half-length portraits for well over 200 years from about 1630. Eccentrically, this size canvas was universally referred to as a "Threequarters", when patently it was not used for 3/4 length portraits. 3/4 length portraits are usually canvas size 36 x 28 ins ('Kitcat') while the three-quarter length, size 50 x 40 ins (127.0 x 101.6 cm), was called a half-length. This, er, eminently logical system was beginning to break down by the 1880's, but it would still be perfectly normal even then to refer to a 30"x25" canvas as a "threequarters" portrait when it depicted a man down to his waist. If the picture has been cut down from a larger picture (which might well be apparent from the reverse, as the tacking-edge would be painted if it has not been relined), then the chances of its being a non-standard size increase.

Moreover, there is a standard French size canvas which is 73 x 60 cm used for figure painting, which is too small for the present picture. An artist in Brussels paintings from a photograph would surely have saved himself time and effort and used a standard size canvas. The next standard size up for French paintings is 81 x 65 cm. So the balance of probability seems to me to point to a UK origin for the canvas.

All of this could of course be easily clarified if we could have a photo of the back of the picture (showing the canvas edge) and a confirmation of the actual canvas size - in proper British Brexit inches rather than those ghastly confusing new-fangled centimetres.

Jacob Simon at the NPG has written a useful guide to British canvas sizes at:

https://www.npg.org.uk/research/programmes/artists-their-materials-and-suppliers/three-quarters-kit-cats-and-half-lengths-british-portrait-painters-and-their-canvas-sizes-1625-1850/1.-introduction

Wikipedia gives a list of standard French sizes at:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/French_standard_sizes_for_oil_paintings

Thank you, Christopher, for this nicely forensic account of canvas sizes which all needs to be taken into account. I guess what we need to ask is whether a reviewer calling a portrait a 3/4 length is referring to what is seen or to what the size of the canvas is.

Osmund Bullock,

The exact wording in the April 1887 article in the Wrexham Advertiser is "the portrait ... was painted by M.[sic] Shaw Sparrow ... and represented the right hon. gentleman at three-quarter length, standing near a table."

Even if someone might just conceivably have referred to a three-quarters (i.e c.30 x 25 inches, or a bit less) as 'three-quarter length' - though that is something that actually I've never come across - the precise phrasing used here surely leaves no doubt that it is the sitter that is being described, not the canvas size. In any case, in my experience by the late C19th the term 'a three-quarter(s)' for that size was unknown outside specialist circles (e.g. some auction catalogues) - not that it had ever been widely known or used by the public - and I rather doubt that a reporter on an 1880s provincial paper would have been aware of it, let alone have used it for a general audience. And there is also the matter of the missing table. For the same reason - but with fractionally less certainty - the description of the Hanley portrait in April 1882 as 'a three-quarter length' would again likely be a description of the sitter, not the canvas.

So in truth whether it is the Sparrow or the Hanley I will be surprised if it has *not* been reduced in size - unless, as Martin suggested, there were two versions painted, one perhaps a smaller preliminary study. It is no surprise that a cut down portrait might end up at about 30 x 24 in - larger works are commonly reduced to near standard smaller sizes, often in order to match other portraits owned. The Sparrow parents' portraits, incidentally, are both kit-kats - hers exactly the standard 36 x 28 in, his slightly wider (29½).

Kieran Owens,

Barbara, this discussion might ramble on indefinitely, only to have all of these suggestions very quickly negated or confirmed by the evidence that might exist on the reverse side of painting. Is there any way that, as you asked for three years ago, someone at Gwynedd Museum and Art Gallery could be induced by ArtUK or any other interested party, to take their mobile phone and photograph the frame, canvas and, as Christopher has wisely suggested above, the tacking-edge? I would happily do so myself if the painting could be made available for inspection. As I know that Edward Stone has moved to other work at ArtUK, is there not someone there who now has responsibility for following up on these types of requests?

Kieran, I have recently asked the collection for a photo of the whole back of the painting. From past communication with them, I have some information to post but was waiting for their reply about a photo of the back. So let me convey what I do have later on. I can also Art Detective to approach the collection as well. But rest assured that these matters are in the works and that sometimes a wait is necessary to obtain fuller information.

Martin Hopkinson,

Royal Manchester Institution 1880 no 289 Hanley Aloes £26-5-0
No Sparrow exhibits in the 1880s there - but there is no copy of the 1883 first autumn exhibition at the RMI in the Mellon Centre run

Thanks to the help of staff at Storiel, Gwynedd Museum and Art Gallery, there is now some information to impart which I will summarise.

A conservation assessment by the collection on their files noted that "the original canvas has been crudely cut to fit the frame and then glued onto an MDF board within the original stretcher". The whole view attached shows that the back is covered, but that there are labels visible on the stretchers.

These two faded labels, see attached, give some clues.

One framer and gilder is Lang and Co. on Edgware Road in London. This is not listed on Jacob Simon's pages on framers on the NPG website. What can be said about this is that George Edward Lang, carvers and gilders of Edgware Road, filed for bankruptcy in January 1876, see attached. Whether this firm revived, we don't know.

For the second label, the collection established, via Jacob Simon's pages on the NPG website, that London Road Nottingham reference is to John Ashworth, an established framers and gilders, who were at that address in Nottingham by 1891. See https://www.npg.org.uk/research/conservation/directory-of-british-framemakers/a

The collection deduced that the frame was made for the picture. The mounting and fittings are modern (1980s+).

See attached for the picture within its frame.

The London framers might have been used by Osborne Morgan or his wife at any time. The Nottingham one is harder to explain.

I don't think any of the above is going to give us a definitive answer but we do learn this picture may well have been cut down, certainly trimmed in a way that could have eliminated the artist's signature and reduced its size. And that means it could be by Hanley or Shaw Sparrow.

Still to come is a fresh high res image of the painting.

Martin Hopkinson,

The Nottingham label could be connected with one of the annual Midland Counties Art Exhibitions held at Nottingham Castle , for which there were catalogues. One of 1877 'Collection of selected modern pictures in oil and watercolour' happens to be in the NAL -Otherwise one needs to go to Nottingham to pursue this

Kieran Owens,

If the original Osborne Morgan portrait was cut down to fit the frame, then there is the distinct possibility the the old labels have nothing to do with the current painting and are left over from some other work for which the frame might have originally been made.

Kieran Owens,

This is all the more likely if George Edward Lang's establishment was out of business by 1876, six years before the Hanley painting of 1882 was exhibited.

Jacinto Regalado,

It will be very difficult if not impossible to resolve this matter without visual evidence of how Sparrow painted, especially portraits.

Thanks, Marion and Gwynedd for the high-res image, and Barbara, for conveying the information from the Collection. The latter helpfully confirms that the painting has been cut down, as originally proposed by Osmond: it follows, of course, that a signature is likely to have been lost.

The portrait could possibly be by Walter Shaw Sparrow or Edgar Hanley (and exhibited RA 1882), but equally possibly by another artist altogether. Morgan was such an eminent political figure that there are likely to have been numerous portrayals of him.

Whoever painted the Gwynedd picture was working in the distinctive mode established by the 1880s for portraying the great and the good -- inevitably men and of mature years, grey-haired, and whiskered or bearded, wearing black, their heads spot-lit against dark backgrounds. The prime exemplars of this confident mode were Frank Holl and Hubert von Herkomer. See, for example, Holl’s signed portrait of William Oxenden Hammond:

https://www.artuk.org/discover/artworks/william-oxenden-hammond-75781/search/makers:frank-holl-18451888/page/4/view_as/grid

I think it unlikely that Sparrow could have mastered this mode in his brief early career as an artist. While Hanley remains a possibility, I suggest that serious consideration be given to Frank Holl as the painter of the Gynedd portrait. Please see the attached comparison, noting particularly the treatment of the eyes and eyelids, also the tiny wisps of white hair to the right of the head in both cases.

Holl did not exhibit a portrait of Morgan at the RA but then Hammond was not shown there either. The latter is given the date 1883 on ArtUK, although the final digit in the date following the signature is not visible in the image.

Christopher Foley,

The mueum's conservation report states that the painting has been glued to board (an unsatisfactory alternative to lining/re-lining) and the board attached to the original stretcher. Assuming this is true, then the present picture must be only slightly cut down - perhaps (Probably ?) by "crudely cut"ting away the tacking-edges of the painting where it was attached to the original stretcher when new. I have seen this on quite a few other paintings.
I assume the Conservator's report is accurate (why wouldn't it be ?) so the likelihood of the picture having once been threequarter length is excluded as it is now only marginally smaller than when it started life.
Is the typeface of the "Lang / Edgware Road" label Jugendstil/ Art Nouveau ? (I am no expert) If so, wouldn't a somewhat later date than his bankruptcy in 1876 would be implied ?

The wording of the 'conservation assessment' is unclear. I do not understand what 'glued onto an MDF board WITHIN the original stretcher' means. Once the canvas was glued to the MDF there would surely have been no need for the stretcher support. My guess is that the canvas was more than slightly cut down, the original stretcher thus becoming redundant, with the support now needed for the canvas being supplied by the rudimentary means of glueing it to board. Perhaps there has been some confusion between 'stretcher' and 'frame'? I am inclined to agree with Kieran's suggestion that the painting was reduced in size to fit a pre-existing frame.

Christopher Foley,

It is not that unusual to see a painting which had been laid onto board and then the original stretcher attached to the board. I have an 18th century life-size full length portrait where precisely this has happened. The anonymous wretch who glued my canvas to the board used impact adhesive, making the whole thing irreversible, alas. In this latter case, the canvas-laid-on-board is precisely WITHIN the compass of the old stretcher, leaving a 1/2 inch bare edge all the way round. This then fits into the original frame, the bare edge being covered with the rebate of the frame.

In the high resolution image it is possible to make out the faint "bar marks" which the original stretcher has made on the canvas. They may be seen eg upper left in the brown background as a vertical and a horizontal line which meet top left at a right-angle about what must be a couple of inches from the corner. The linearity of the marks is in contrast with the coarse irregular craquelure which I would imagine arises from the artist's excessive use of drying oil.

These bar marks develop slowly over many decades prior to a lining, and are virtually a guarantee that a canvas started life at the present size. Where bar marks are visible on some sides but not others, one has to be suspicious that the picture has either been overpainted or has been trimmed. Or indeed both.

Osmund Bullock,

The framer George Lang did indeed continue in business at 121 Edgware Rd after the firm went bankrupt in 1876 - directories show him at the same address every year between 1872 & 1905. However, the pseudo-oriental typeface on the label looks as if it derives from 'Japonism' rather than Art Nouveau, and that hit the mainstream in England from the 1870s, peaking in the 1880s (think G&S's 'Mikado'). However I think that's pretty academic, as a careful examination of the image of the whole of the back ('b-2000-4reverse') reveals both labels are in fact just visible on the inner part of the *frame*, not the stretcher - like Richard (and pace Christopher) I feel there has been some confusion about the meaning of 'stretcher' somewhere along the line. See attached the same image with the two labels ringed in red (and apparently a third one, which I've ringed in green). Not that it makes much difference, but I also think it's possible the board shown fixed in place may even be not a separate backing, but the very one to which the canvas has been glued on the other side.

This leads me to agree with Kieran that there is no reason to think the frame and its labels relate historically to the portrait at all - before it becomes confusing, the conservation assessment clearly states "the original canvas has been crudely cut to fit the frame". This must have happened long after the portrait was painted - in fact quite recently, as MDF (as opposed to the earlier hardboard and chipboard) only began to come on the market during the 1980s.

1 attachment
Osmund Bullock,

Having re-read the whole of Barbara's summary of the information given to her, I see that that the collection deduced that "the frame was made for the picture" - this is perplexing, as it seems to contradict completely the conservation assessment's note that the original canvas had been cut to fit the frame.

Jacinto Regalado,

The questions as to when and from whom Bangor University acquired this portrait, posed in the first comment on this thread, still need to be answered.

Kieran Owens,

The existence of three separate and rather distressed looking labels on this work's frame also suggests that it has been used for at least three other different paintings prior to this discussion's one. It would seem like a natural inclination for any subsequent framer to attempt to remove any previous labels at the time, including the framing of the Osborne Morgan canvas. It also suggests that the framing of his portrait was not done by a professional framer, as, logically, a fourth trade label for this person would probably have been pasted on at the time of that job being concluded.

As Jacinto has pointed out above, the next useful addition to this discussion would be Bangor University's comments on the circumstances of the acquisition of the portrait. Might they also have in their records any details surrounding the reframing of this portrait since it came into their possession? As Osmond has rightly pointed out, the use of MDF board places this reframing task to some relatively recent time since the 1980s.

Jacinto Regalado,

Generally speaking, this portrait strikes me as crisper and sharper in handling than the one image of a Hanley portrait found thus far and linked above. It is also "flashier" and less sensitive. Perhaps that is all due to very different sitters being treated differently, but it may also indicate two different painters.

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