Completed Sculpture 61 Who sculpted this bust of Sir William Davison?

Topic: Artist

This bust is signed and dated (image #8) and no doubt by a known sculptor, but I do not think the signature has been read properly, which is admittedly difficult to do.

I contacted the collection, which has no additional information. There was nothing useful in the Council Minutes regarding a possible presentation of the bust. The matter hinges, I think, on a proper reading of the signature, or possibly contemporary newspaper reports.

The sitter was knighted in 1918 and raised to the peerage in 1945. At the time the bust was made, he was Sir William Davison but not yet Baron Broughshane. He was an MP for Kensington South 1918-1945.

‘Leonvey’ (which the collection may have in its records as Leovney) does not appear in the Mapping Sculpture database and I could find no sculptor of that surname otherwise.

Jacinto Regalado, Entry reviewed by Art UK

Completed, Outcome

This discussion is now closed. The previous attribution, ‘A. Leonvey/Leovney (active 1933)’, was probably based on the unclear signature. The sculptor was identified as Alec Dearnley (1904–1989).

Thank you to everyone who contributed to the discussion. To anyone viewing this discussion for the first time, please see below for all the comments that led to this conclusion.


Jacinto Regalado,

I do not know if there is a biography of or a memoir by the sitter, but either one would potentially be helpful.

Jacinto Regalado,

The first name might be Alec, but the surname, rather improbably, appears to start with an X.

Jacinto Regalado,

The title of Baron Broughshane was inherited in succession by the 1st Baron's two sons, and became extinct at the death of the 3rd Baron in 2006.

Jacinto Regalado,

Marcie, that listing for Polak is for a carver/gilder firm, which sounds unlikely to be connected to this bronze bust.

Jacinto Regalado,

Apparently the sitter has no ODNB entry, which sometimes helps with likenesses. Perhaps the BNA database may have something useful, if those used to working with that (unlike me) could check.

Osmund Bullock,

Yes, no ODNB. There was a fairly full obituary in The Times, and other biogs in newspapers when elected Mayor of Kensington in 1913 and 1914 (he was elected seven times in a row) – see attached. Perhaps the most promising detail is that he was a trustee of the Whitechapel Art Gallery, though he didn’t mention that in his Who's Who entry. Other stories from the BNA show he was a trustee of the gallery as early as 1908, and as late as 1925 - the last one suggests he may have had a particular interest in statuary.

Jacinto Regalado,

I hope we're getting closer. The signature is maddening, because it should be decipherable yet resists being made out.

Jacinto Regalado,

The sitter was a member of the Royal Society of Arts and sat on its Council, as noted in the Journal of the RSA in 1935 (issue of 22 March, p. 424). In that issue (p. 425), it was reported that he had been appointed to represent the RSA on the Council of the London Society. See

Jacinto Regalado,

Marcie, there's an article from the same newspaper (Kensington News and West London Times) dated May 7th 1954 which mentions the bust, but I cannot open it. Can you check to see what it says?

Jacinto Regalado,

The 1954 article mentioned above is in the BNA database.

Osmund Bullock,

Well spotted (and ditto Marcie previously) - but it doesn't help, I'm afraid. Attached.

The RSA - full title 'The Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce' - has little to do with the sharp end of creating works of art, which is why I didn't mention it. Its remit has always been very much broader: to "embolden enterprise, enlarge science, refine art, improve our manufacturers and extend our commerce" (words from its founding charter); and that purpose has become even more pronounced in the C20th and since. Though not impossible, I think Davison is less likely to have come across a working artist there than at the Whitechapel Gallery.

Kieran Owens,

The artist is Alexander 'Alec' Dearnley. In 1933, he exhibited at the RA from 55, Southfield Road, Bedford Park, London. He also exhibited there in 1932, 1934, 1935 and 1936.

There is one other work by him in the Art UK database:

He was born on the 27th June 1904 and died in July 1989.

Kieran Owens,

Dearnley is recorded as having worked at Elstree film studios. He married, firstly, in London, Elsie Lucy Thrush about November 1927, and secondly, in Surrey, Edith Patricia Hutcheson about August 1979. A self-published autobiography, limited to an edition of 60, exists.

It could possibly be that he is also the Alec Dearnley, of D & A Models, Ltd., Chiswick, who fabricated this piece:

Kieran Owens,

What appears to be an advertisement for his sculpting and fabricating skills appeared in Volume 82, 1937, edition of Country Life Illustrated:

"Alexander Dearnley, Sculptor, will design and produce for landscape architects and others exclusive ornaments, figures, bird baths, sundials, etc., in bronze, lead, stone, artificial stone, etc. Designs and sketch models of ..." (Osmund, could you oblige with your magic?")

Jacinto Regalado,

Excellent, Kieran. Oddly, he does not appear in the Mapping Sculpture database. His vital dates will have to be revised on Art UK.

Jacinto Regalado,

Apparently, the Leeds architectural panel was designed by Allan Johnson (who was an architect but also had art training) and executed by Dearnley and his firm. Interesting man, Mr Dearnley.

Jacinto Regalado,

Dearnley's vital dates should of course be added to the entry for the Leeds architectural panel.

Andrew Shore,

I quickly Googled Dearnley and came across this AP picture on Alamy:

It suggests that the BBC's sculpture bust of Sir Henry Wood isn't by Donald Gilbert, but instead by Alec Dearnley too! Here's that work on Art UK:

You can see it's not the same as the one used at the Proms (which is in the Royal Academy of Music, and is signed by Gilbert):

The BBC's one has a long inscription about how it's a copy of the Gilbert, but possibly there's just been a mix up at some point over the past 80-odd years...

The date of the BBC's artwork on Art UK is currently 1936 but should be at least pre-1932 (the Alamy image's date) and possibly before.

This newspaper article talks about Dearnley sculpting Wood and it's from 1932:

This article is from Nov 1931 and he'd already done Wood by then:

Marcie Doran,

Amazing work, everyone.

This bust is indeed mentioned in Lord Broughshane’s will:

“2. (B) FROM and after my wife's death I GIVE the following items free of duty that is to say: -

(1) I GIVE to the Mayor Aldermen and Councillors of the Royal Borough of Kensington the Bronze portrait bust of myself by Mr. Alexander Dearnley …”

Perhaps the acquisition information could be updated to indicate that this work was bequeathed by Sir William Henry Davison, 1st Baron Broughshane of Kensington in 1953.

Jacinto Regalado,

The BBC bust of Wood is obviously not another version of the RAM bust and clearly matches the bust in the photo with Wood. Wood looks older in the 1936 RAM bust. The question now is whether or not the BBC bust is signed, which cannot be determined from the photos on Art UK, which do not include a shot of the back. Thus, the BBC needs to be asked about that.

Jacinto Regalado,

The Gilbert bust at the RAM is signed and dated 1935, not 1936, so that date is incorrect and should be changed in its Art UK entry.

Note also from the various images on both Wood busts and our bust on Art UK that the BBC one is made like ours, whereas the RAM bust is not. It appears certain that the BBC bust is by Dearnley.

Osmund Bullock,

Funnily enough, Andrew, after reading that 1932 Manchester Ev. News piece (which Kieran had actually already posted yesterday), I also went looking for Sir Henry Wood last night, but failed to pursue matters with your vigour and perseverance!

I was misled by another article about Dearnley of 1956 from the West London Observer (also posted by Kieran 14/09/2023 19:41), which stated that "the bust of Sir Henry Wood at the Royal Academy of Music is by him". So I went to the RAM's page, but saw that their one was clearly signed by Gilbert (and in my view, rather more interesting than Dearnley's work, which can seem a little bland), and left it at that. Gilbert's, by the way, is dated 1935, not 1936 as given on Art UK.

Your first link (Wood & his [Dearnley] bust at the Queen's Hall in Sep 1932) is very interesting. The Proms were always held at Queen's Hall until the building was destroyed by bombing in May 1941, after which they moved to the Royal Albert Hall. The BBC had a close relationship with the QH after 1927, and I wondered if it was Dearnley's bust that was the centre of attention at the Proms until 1941, when according to the Wikipedia article on the the QH ( "All that remained intact on the site was a bronze bust of Wood retrieved from the debris".

However, note 11 in the same Wiki article says, "The bust of Wood that survived the destruction of the hall was by Donald Gilbert, unveiled in 1938 by Sir Walford Davies as part of the celebration of Wood's fifty years as a conductor. Its site was at the back of the Promenade floor. It is now on display at the Royal Academy of Music, except during Proms seasons, when it occupies a central position overlooking the orchestra at the Royal Albert Hall."

But it seems quite likely that Dearnley's bust resided at the QH (and was seen at the Proms) until 1938. How exactly and why the BBC acquired it is a further matter, but presumably it was through their strong connection with the Hall and the Proms; and it is easy to see how the information about it became confused, which it seems to have been for at least 67 years.

Kieran Owens,

Just to let you all know that I have already submitted a suggestion to Marion yesterday that the BBC bust of Wood is by Dearnley and not by Gilbert. I have asked her to ask the BBC is there is any signature or date on it.

The attached composite might help. The quote, of "Sir Henry Wood, the great conductor inspecting the bust of himself at the Queen’s Hall in London on Sept. 2, 1932. The work was executed by the clever young sculptor Alec Dearnley. (AP Photo)" was supplied by the Associated Press and is contemporaneous with the photo.

1 attachment
Kieran Owens,

Additionally, the style and finish of Gilbert's RAM bust of Sir Henry Wood in nothing like the BBC's, so to claim that the latter is a smaller version of the former "original" is, I believe, not true.

Kieran Owens,

Osmund, the West London Observer statement in 1956, that "the bust of Sir Henry Wood at the Royal Academy of Music is by him" might well have been true at that time if both Dearnley's and Gilbert's busts of Wood had been rescued from the bombed Queen's Hall and been been deposited at the RAM for safe keeping. Having two of them, however, might have seemed a luxury, especially as Gilbert's one was being used in such a prominent public display at The Proms. Could Dearnley's have been transferred by the RAM to the BBC at some time after 1956? That their record states that it was "commissioned" does not necessarily mean that it was commissioned by the BBC, rather more probably that it was commissioned by Wood and/or the Queen's Hall. There surely must be some more records at both or either of the RAM and the BBC that would throw light on the matter.

Kieran Owens,

This is from the BBC's own website, regarding their bust of Sir Henry Wood:

"Henry Wood bust - unknown artist

This bronze bust of Sir Henry Wood (1869-1944) used to be on permanent display at Henry Wood House, the building named after him. Since the BBC left the building, it is now on display in Broadcasting House reception.

Research continues on the identity of the artist, but the piece should not be confused with the 1936 bust of Sir Henry Wood by Donald Gilbert which is loaned to the BBC by the Royal Academy of Music for display at the Prom concerts in the Royal Albert Hall.

Henry Wood conducted the first Proms season in 1895, and then made the Proms his life's work and for many years was the sole conductor. The BBC took over responsibility for the Proms in 1927. Queen's Hall, home of the Proms for many years, was destroyed in the London Blitz, as was St. George's Hall which also used to play host to BBC orchestras."

How did Art UK water the information that is currently attached to the BBC's bust of Wood?

Kieran Owens,

Correction for the above mistake....

How did Art UK gather the information that is currently attached to the BBC's bust of Wood?

Jacinto Regalado,

Kieran, that information from the BBC website suggests the BBC bust of Wood is unsigned, though that should be confirmed. Even if unsigned, everything points to it being Dearnley's bust, especially the contemporary evidence to that effect from 1932.

Osmund Bullock,

Andrew, you probably realised this, but the image with the bust up on a wall is from when it was at Henry Wood House (apparently in 2010).

Kieran, I think your scenario of both busts being rescued from the rubble of Queen's Hall is a bit far-fetched: the note to its Wikipedia article re the bust and the fire-bombing ( goes into detail of the memorials lost (there were only three others there, one a bust), and seems to imply that it was Henry Wood's position well away from the centre and likely hottest part of the conflagration that uniquely saved it. I think it unlikely they wouldn't have mentioned the survival of a second bust - the information came from a 1944 book about Queen's Hall.

It seems more likely to me that when they found themselves with two busts of the man in 1938, the lesser (or perceived as such) one was offered to the BBC as they had been the sponsors and part-organisers of the Proms since 1927, and were strongly connected with the Hall through them and many other concerts - the newly-formed (in 1930) BBC Symphony Orchestra often performed there in the 1930s.

Kieran Owens,

Osmund, you might well be correct, but it seems odd, in your scenario, that a writer in 1956 would state that "the bust of Sir Henry Wood at the Royal Academy of Music is by him", as a reference to Dearnley, if Dearnley's bust had never been at the RAM at any time, but had been at the BBC since being possibly gifted to them by the Queen's Hall in or sometime after the arrival in 1935/6 of the perceived better one by Gilbert. How could the writer have associated anything by Dearnley with the RAM, all the more so as Dearnley's bust appears to be unsigned, unless he or she had been expressly informed. The tone of the 1956 article suggests that Dearnley, or someone associated with the "Mad Scientist" sculpture, told the writer that his bust of Wood was at the RAM, though they might have been unaware that it had since been moved to the BBC.

Once again with Art UK, we rely on responses from the relevant collections, and perhaps if we ever are given such from the RAM and the BBC the acquisition or accession details might be forthcoming.

Kieran Owens,

Perhaps the discussion of the Dearnley / Wood bust should be moved to that Art UK record entry. For this discussion, the identity of the artist has, I believe, been established beyond any doubt. It is now up to Marion to decide if he should be registered in the database as Alexander 'Alec' Dearnley, or simply as Alec Dearnley, by which latter name he appears to have been more regularly known.

Jacinto Regalado,

I would go with Alec Dearnley, but yes, the question about this bust has been answered.

Kieran Owens,

Jacinto, I agree. It is the name on his birth and death certificates, as well on most available census returns and newspaper mentions. The use of Alexander might have been for social nicety reasons.

Jacinto Regalado,

Whatever form of the name is chosen, it needs to be the same for this bust, his other bust on Art UK currently under Alex Dearnley, and the architectural screen at Leeds (which uses Alec Dearnley), all with his vital dates. The entry for the Leeds screen also needs to have the vital dates for Allan Johnson (1907-1994). Then of course, there is the BBC bust of Henry Wood, but that is a separate matter for which someone should submit a formal proposal to Marion so that it can be taken up with the BBC (though the matter seems perfectly clear and straightforward in terms of authorship, if not where the bust has resided along its history and when).

Kieran Owens,

Jacinto, as mentioned above, I have already sent that formal proposal to Marion by way of a separate submission.

Osmund Bullock,

I agree that the Wood bust(s) should ideally be dealt with in a separate discussion...but I'm afraid I'd already found on Friday night a rather significant article in The Times describing the unveiling of the Donald Gilbert one at Queen's Hall in Sep 1938. I was umm-ing and aah-ing about it all day yesterday, but have finally decided to post now to prevent people wasting their time searching in the wrong direction.

As Sir Henry explained, the [Gilbert] bust was formerly his (or at least in his possession), but a distinguished musical friend who saw it at Wood's home in (probably) early 1938 felt that it should be in Queen's Hall. Wood agreed to it, and after some months of work this was achieved by the friend (who died in Aug that year) through the good offices of two other parties. Though it's far from clear in the article, it seems possible that the actual owner may have been the music publishers Chappell & Co or their managing director - Chappells were or had been the leaseholders and proprietors of the QH, and sponsored the Proms before the BBC took over in 1927.

This perceived need for a bust of Wood at Queen's Hall strongly suggests that Dearnley's one was not there in 1938 (let alone in 1941). The AP photo of Wood with it at QH on 2/9/1932 (exactly half-way through the BBC proms that year) is perhaps more likely to have been a bit of PR by the BBC, with the bust brought in for the occasion. In fact it wouldn't surprise me if the BBC has owned it all along - its AUK entry does after all say it was commissioned (by them?), though of course much else is wrong.

Thank you all, especially Kieran for this quick discovery! I will make the updates and answer the related emails and submission as soon as possible.

Kieran Owens,

Osmund, that is a masterful analysis and a believable suggestion. If Dearnley's bust was commissioned by the BBC and was brought to the Queen's Hall in 1932, where Wood inspected it, and was then returned to the BBC, it would make complete sense that a few years later Gilbert's 1935 bust as owned by Wood would be unveiled at the venue in 1938 in the context described in your attached article. This scenario suggests that there should be a reference in the BBC's archive and/or accounts to the said commissioning of the bust of Wood by Dearnley.

Whatever the exact details of this, the conclusion should be accepted that this discussion's bust is by Alec Dearnley and that the BBC's bust of Sir Henry Wood is also by him and is not by Donald Gilbert. Two birds with the one stone, methinks.

Marion, regarding the Maidstone bust, it would appear to be by Dearnley, though it is very interesting that, in 1931, he is signing as Alex and not Alec. It will up to you to decide how exactly he should be named in the database, especially if all of the works are to fall under the one artist's record. The choices are:

Alexander 'Alec' Dearnley
Alec 'Alexander' Dearnley
Alec Dearnley
Alex Dearnley

Also, it would be up to you and the BBC to change the current attribution from Gilbert to Dearnley on their bust of Sir Henry Wood.

The photograph archivist for the Associated Press might also be approached to see what other information might be held in their records for Sir Henry Wood in early September 1932.

Jacinto Regalado,

Alec clearly must be included as the primary name, based on all the evidence we have, though Alexander could be given in parentheses. All three known Dearnley busts on Art UK and the Leeds architectural screen should fall under the same artist's record.

I think Alec 'Alexander' Dearnley (1904–1989), but first I'd like to ask Katharine Eustace whether she would like to comment and I need to talk to the curator at Maidstone as well as the BBC before updating their records.

I looked through everything yesterday and began making what updates I could (adding Allan Johnson's vital dates and changing the date of Gilbert's bust at RAM to 1935). I've written to our contact at the BBC, but he will not be back in the office until tomorrow and he works two days a week. I've sent him a link to the discussion.

Jacinto Regalado,

I would suggest that MP should be included in the title of this bust.

Jacinto Regalado,

It may be better to just add a note to the Art UK entry like "The sitter became Mayor of Kensington in 1913 and was an MP from 1918 to 1945, the year he was raised to the peerage."

Thank you, Jacinto. I've added to our entry: 'The sitter became Mayor of Kensington in 1913 and was an MP for Kensington South from 1918 to 1945, the year he was raised to the peerage.

Katharine Eustace has been observing the discussion and agrees on closing it, as the question has been answered successfully. I'll do that after hearing back from the BBC, so that we can include any change to that record in the closing remarks.

Jacinto Regalado,

Presumably there has been no response from the BBC regarding its bust of Henry Wood, but since that is a separate matter, it may be best to close this discussion.