© the copyright holder
photo credit: Towneley Hall Art Gallery & Museum
Is this a portrait of the Manchester-based sculptor who was born in Ireland, John Cassidy (1860–1939)? Reginald Barber painted a portrait of him, now in Manchester Art Gallery, which is dated to 1900: http://bit.ly/2v8CENj
For Cassidy see http://www.johncassidy.org.uk and an article in Bulletin of the John Rylands Library University of Manchester 89, 1, Autumn 2012.
The detailed research on Cassidy has been done by Charlie Hulme and Lis Nicolson. Charlie Hulme thinks that this is a portrait of Cassidy and remarks that it was common for members of Manchester Academy of Art to model for each other at this period.
Towneley Art Gallery does not know when or how it came to the collection, and the painting is unsigned.
It could be by the impressionist Pierre Valette who taught in Manchester.
I do not see any facial resemblance between the sitter and the photos and portrait of John Cassidy.
If the painting is by Pierre Adolphe Valette, I think it more likely that this is a portrait of Valette's contemporary at Manchester School of Art, John Millard (1862 -1948).
Millard arrived at the School in 1905, and taught sculpture there until the 1930s.
For more detail about Millard, see https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1220798
which relates to Macclesfield War Memorial.
So far I have been unable to find a photo of Millard - can anyone help ?
Millard was one of the witnesses (possibly as Best Man) who signed the Marriage Certificate on the occasion of Valette's second marriage, to Helene Andree Pallez, in 1919.
The manner in which the sculptor's smock is painted does look to me like the hand of Valette.
From a physiognomy point-of-view, I, too, would be most surprised if this was meant to be Cassidy. There are five different photographs of him on the Cassidy website dating from 1897-1923; and though some are clearer than others, his appearance is consistent throughout with the plump-faced man in the Barber portrait, but not in any way with this sitter.
John Millard seems a good suggestion, but I can't find an image of him either. He was tricky to pin down, as the dates given for him are quite wrong - he was in fact born (at Wigan) on 12th Jan 1874, and died on 10th July 1957 at Stockport (he was living at Heaton Moor, at the same address given in Mapping Sculpture). His widow Annie Elizabeth (same address again) died 24/12/1963. Their only child Mary Millard (b.1908) died unmarried at Stockport in Jan 1996, so there's no hope of asking a descendant.
[I have all the supporting evidence for this info, but probably won't post it unless we can establish he was the sitter.]
The best bet is perhaps to identify one of the sculptures in the painting. Can Millard be shown to have executed the standing figure in the background? Both artists are covered in the online 'Mapping the practice and profession of sculpture in Britain and Ireland 1851-1951' run by the University of Glasgow. Cassidy's examples of this type of work are better recorded than Millard's, but it would be worth checking the PMSA volumes for Lancashire, Cheshire , Manchester, Liverpool and Merseyside to see if it is a model for a or part of a public monument
The standing figure in the painting is not very distinct, but is not unlike the figure of Sorrow on top of the Macclesfield War Memorial.
Ironically, John Cassidy exhibited a sculpture of "John Millard Esq." at the Manchester Institute of Fine Arts in 1916 (no. 281) - location apparently unknown. http://www.johncassidy.org.uk/academy.html
How frustrating, Andrew!
John Millard had several siblings including a younger brother, George Henry (1880-1965), doubtless the 'G.H.Millard' (?a plaster bust) exhibited at Manchester Art Gallery in 1906. George *does* seem to have living descendants, and I think I've tracked down a grandson who is old enough (b.1939) to have known his great uncle John. I will try and contact him over the weekend (I have a phone no.), and report back.
Having been to Towneley Hall, Burnley, today with two acknowledged experts on the work of Adolphe Valette, I can say that the painting is not by him.
Back to square one !
I have an idea with regards to a possible painter but would also
like to ask if there is anything on the back of the painting please?
My grandfather, Robert Arthur Dawson was the Principal at the Manchester School of Art from 1919 to 1939 - i.e. during the possible period we are talking about - and must have known all the teachers there. He was an excellent portraitist himself but this does not look like his style, so he can probably be ruled out. There is a book I think, on the history of the Manchester School of Art which may help.
Photograph of the rear of the painting with the museum name and accession number.
Could this be an early work by James Purdy [1900-72]? See his self portrait in Gallery Oldham, which owns a number of pictures by him.