Completed Continental European after 1800, Dress and Textiles, Portraits: British 19th C, Scotland: Artists and Subjects 22 Who painted this signed artwork 'Portrait of a Boy', dated 1859?

Portrait of a Boy
Topic: Artist

This is signed and dated '59' (1859). The first name of this artist may be George.

The collection do not know who painted this artwork.

Can any more information be found?

Martin Hopkinson, Entry reviewed by Art UK

Completed, Outcome

This discussion is now closed. This painting has been attributed to James Ferrier Pryde (1866–1941). We have found that the date is not 1859, but 1889, and that this is not an oil painting on canvas, but a work on paper and probably a pastel.

Thank you to everyone who participated in this discussion. To those viewing it for the first time, please see below for all the comments that led to this conclusion.


My first thought is that this does not look like a work of the late 1850s and I wonder if the date is more like 1889? The feel of it is post-Whistler. Anyone else think the same?

Martin Hopkinson,

Indeed 1889 seems much more likely - and the artist seems to have been working in the vein of those Glasgow painters, who much admired Whistler

Roderick Macleod,

There is something reminiscent of James (Ferrier) Pryde in the brushwork, and the surname is not unlike the way he sometimes signed, save for the flamboyant downstroke.

Martin Hopkinson,

It does look like a painting by Pryde, but can one reconcile this signature with his?

Martin Hopkinson,

Two art historians have written on Pryde in recent years = Angeria Rigamonti di Cuto in The British Art Journal, XIII, 2, 2012, and Cecilia Powell in the catalogue of the Fleming -Wyfold Art Foundation 2006 exhibition Rascals and Ruins: the romantic visions of James Pryde. In addition the critic and artist Merlin James, who lives in Glasgow , knows Pryde's work. All three should be able to offer informed opinions as to whether this painting could be by Pryde.

Betty Elzea,

One of the 'Scottish Colourists', such as Peploe or Cadell?
No earlier than late 19th or early 20th c anyway.

Merlin James 01,

My instinct says not Pryde. He was technically capable of producing a portrait like this in '89, but the touch isn't really him. His brushwork is almost always more molten somehow. The blocky dry brush here is more like, say, Guthrie (not that I suggest him as the artist).

The surname certainly looks like 'Pryde' but the date and the first name are frustratingly ambiguous. I think Pryde's signature around then usually had a more bulbous 'd'. Has a conservator looked at the signature and date? Could it possibly have been added later, to liven an anonymous picture, and maybe to evoke vaguely an illustrious name and period? Is provenance known? That might lead to an author, or if it just leads to the picture trade, that makes the possibility of a slightly bogus signature more likely.

Sorry, this is mostly just common-sense mulling.

Andrea Kollmann,

Could we have a close up of the signature please?

Malcolm Fowles,

Wikipedia says "In 1890 he ... began to make pastel drawings in a style influenced by that of James McNeill Whistler."

So a pastel signature on an '89 oil does not rule out Pryde as the signatory. Also it looks 'dashed off', so handwriting in pastel might be expected to differ from that in paint due to the altered grip.

There are a couple of 'Pryde' pastels on the web, one via The Saleroom website and one on Wikimedia Commons, from a Christie's sale. They both have very different signatures to the Paisley painting. As in Cartouche the 'd' in both is particularly prominent.

Martin Hopkinson,

Possibly an examination of London exhibition catalogues of 1889-90 may help on this problem - such as the 1889 Grosvenor Gallery pastel exhibition

Martin Hopkinson,

Pryde exhibited a pastel in the 'Second Pastel Exhibition' at the Grosvenor Gallery in 1889
193 A Study
from 10 Fettes Row, Edinburgh
By 1890 he has moved to London - Weldon House, Centre Park , Upper Norwood
he exhibited 'Little girl in black' as no 354 in the First Exhibition of the Society of British Pastellists in the Grosvenor Gallery
Confusingly there were two pastel exhibitions at the Grosvenor Gallery before the foundation of the Society

He exhibited another pastel in 1892 as no 583 at the Glasgow Institute of Fine Arts
I have not yet checked the RSA and RA exhibitions

However, I feel that it is very likely that Pryde executed this pastel

Malcolm Fowles,

Am I missing something? The Art UK information says this is a work in oil on canvas. Above, Richard thought that the signature looks like chalk or pastel. The enlarged image, and Pryde's move into pastel around the same date, makes this a distinct possibility. However it is perfectly possible to lay down pastel on dry oil.

What is the evidence for the whole painting being a pastel work? What is the source of the Art UK information?

To clear this up, I think the collection should be asked to (metaphorically!) run a finger over the work *and* the signature.

Edward Stone,

The collection has kindly checked this work. It is not an oil. It is recorded in the collection's inventory as a watercolour, possibly in error. Visually, it appears to be pastel or chalk on paper – the same medium as the signature.

Martin Hopkinson,

The date 1859 must be wrong stylistically - perhaps misread - 1889 is much more likely

I think this might be a good one to wrap up. We've established the date is not 1859, but is 1889. Correction of the medium on Art UK is needed. It is not an oil, rather it is a work on paper, probably a pastel (and since works on paper now feature in Art UK it is a discussion that is appropriate).

James Pryde (1866-1941) has been suggested as the artist and this seems like a possible attribution. But others with expertise on the artist have doubted it. The work seems akin to other pastels by Pryde featuring children. See Geranium Baby and Young Girl Seated
The dating also fits. As Martin noted a year ago, Pryde came to attention in London with a work in pastel, of a child, seen at the Grosvenor Gallery in 1890. The signature, which bears some similarity to that of Pryde, but perhaps not enough, might have been added later. If no one has any further comments, I recommend this discussion is closed as inconclusive, although if there were support for a tentative attribution to Pryde that might well be added.