Portraits: British 20th C, Scotland: Artists and Subjects 41 Whose device is on this portrait of a man in academic robes?

ABD_UA_30225
Topic: Artist

This is signed bottom right with a device between the two digits either side of it, making up the date 1906. Identifying the artist might lead to discovering the name of the sitter too.

Martin Hopkinson, Entry reviewed by Art UK

41 comments

Osmund Bullock,

This is, I feel sure, a portrait of Professor Stewart Dingwall Fordyce Salmond (1838-1905), third Principal (from 1898 till his death) of the Free Church College, Aberdeen; from 1900 it became the United Free Church College, and then in 1936 Christ's College, before being fully absorbed by the University of Aberdeen in 1986. Attached are two photos of Professor Salmond from biographies online, of which there are a number including https://bit.ly/2Yulg7r.

A memorial portrait to their late Principal was agreed upon by the college in January 1906 (he had died the previous April), and the committee appointed to bring it about included his successor James Iverach, whose rather better portrait also held by the University was identified by Art Detective four years ago: https://bit.ly/2SPBCly. The Aberdeen Press & Journal reported the meeting that discussed the matter, and their piece is attached.

Osmund Bullock,

This portrait was presented the following October, with several Scottish papers writing it up. One report is attached, along with an extract from a second that gives full details of the painting and artist, but reverses his middle initials. He was the little-known James Alexander Hay Hector (1868-1940) of the Aberdeen School of Design, whose main claim to fame is that he was James Cowie's first art teacher. Hector has three works fully attributed to him on Art UK (https://bit.ly/2Yt5329), plus what is clearly a fourth given to an unidentified "J. Hector" (https://bit.ly/2OnVY70). Like his sitter Salmond, Hector was a thorough Aberdonian - both men were born, lived, worked and died in the Granite City.

Osmund Bullock,

If one did not know the portrait was by J A H Hector, it would be quite impossible to guess from what's online. His painting style (and signature) had changed dramatically 13 years later, and continued to do so in subsequent decades. He exhibited quite extensively, at Glasgow, Liverpool, the RA (1916 &1935;) and especially the Royal Scottish Academy (24 works). Most of his work seems to have been landscapes, at least in later years, though in 1891 he describes himself as also a portrait artist. He was married in 1906 to Maggie Badenoch, but as far as I can tell had no children.

Impressively complete, Osmund, though its always a surprise how institutions that have commissioned portraits of leaders etc, so frequently and often quite quickly lose their identities (and I wonder if he's any relation to Alex Salmond...). A minor supplementary: is there any reason to think the 'Untitled' head and shoulders at Robert Gordon University is a self-portrait by Hector?

Jacinto Regalado,

Yes, it is quite curious, if not inexplicable, that institutions which commission portraits of presumably notable people fail to maintain proper records as to both sitters and artists. This is apparently quite common with portraits of mayors and aldermen as well as academics, judging by what one can see on Art UK.

Osmund Bullock,

I pondered both those questions, Pieter! Re the Robert Gordon Uni (ex-College) portrait, I think it is pretty likely to be a self-portrait, but we would need further info from them; was it, perhaps, donated soon after either Hector or his widow died...and by whom? He had been an art teacher there at some point - when is not clear - and was also an ex-pupil. His 1940 obituary (attached) gives much further career information, along with a photo of him in later years - I would certainly say it is consistent with the man in the portrait perhaps 30 or 40 years earlier, but one can't say more than that on current evidence. If it is him and as early as 1898-1908 (when he would have been 30-40), then interestingly his two quite different portrait styles and signatures must have co-existed.

Osmund Bullock,

His widow Maggie Jane Sim Hector (nee Badenoch) died at Aberdeen in 1947.

I've floated a query on the 'Untitled' portrait cross-ref'd to this discussion to see if Robert Gordon Uni can add anything, esp the identity of donor: with luck and a prompt from Art UK they should also be able to improve the artist details from here.

Hopefully I can help a little here. I have been on annual leave and am now in the throes of moving a collections store so please accept my apologies for the delay in replying. The Robert Gordon University untitled portrait by Hector was not a commission for the University or for Gray's School of Art. It is a much more recent donation from a Gray's School of Art alumna in 2007. Information on the sitter can be found if you follow the link. http://collections.rgu.ac.uk/detail.php?term=hector&module=objects&type=keyword&kv=1432&record=1&module=objects

George (Robert Gordon University), thank you for adding your web link to the 'Untitled' work on Art UK listed as by 'J. Hector'. That record has been updated to match yours: James Alexander Hay Hector (1868–1940), 'Portrait of a French Man', c.1912, with the description 'The sitter is believed to be J. Desseignet, who was assistant in French at Aberdeen University.' The donor given as Miss Isobel Gordon. Signed 'J. A. H. Hector'.

Martin Hopkinson,

Jules Desseignet appears in Slater's Royal National Commercial Directory of 1915 in Aberdeen . I am having difficulty in accessing the correct page
The Professor Desseignet teching at Reading University University needs investigation
Which establishment''s academic dress features here

Osmund Bullock,

Martin, I think you've (understandably) got confused - this latest information about Desseignet relates to another work by James Hector on Art UK (https://bit.ly/2OnVY70) that Pieter and I had thought might possibly be a self-portrait, but which we now know is not.

The sitter in the substantive discussion's portrait is, I think, fairly securely identified as Prof Stewart Salmond, third Principal of the Free Church College, Aberdeen (now part of the U. of Aberdeen) - see posts at the top.

Martin Hopkinson,

co-author with Rene Lanson of La France et la revolution de Revolution a nos jours. . London, 1922 [second edition 1925 - others in 1926 and 1930]

Martin Hopkinson,

Indeed, but this information supplements that on the other portrait, which might well be helpful for its owner

Osmund Bullock,

Sorry, that link no longer works - Marion has already updated the entry for the other portrait and its name has changed. Try this instead: https://bit.ly/2KAlH72

Osmund Bullock,

Apologies, Martin, it is of course very helpful - I'd assumed your question about the academic dress related to Desseignet, and signified an uncertainty about our sitter's identity.

Martin Hopkinson,

So I presume that the academic dress can be shown to be that of the Free Church College and not of Aberdeen University or another institution?

Osmund Bullock,

I think it's hard to be certain if there ever was an academic dress specific to the United Free Church College 113 years ago, as the college existed under several different names and was associated with/effectively part of the U. of Aberdeen long before its final complete absorption by them in 1986. But in 1912 Salmond's successor in post James Iverach was certainly wearing something similar or identical (described in the press as 'his red academical robe with purple facings') - here's the link again https://bit.ly/2yoOdmA. I don't know, though, if any other institutions used the same robes or not, and I doubt we could ever be 100% sure they are those of the UFCC. Have you looked for portraits of other worthies of the U. of Aberdeen to see what they're wearing? - I'm afraid I haven't.

I am fairly satisfied that Salmond is (on both circumstantial and facial evidence) the correct identification, so to me the precise description of his academic dress is...well, academic. If you have doubts it's him I'd be very happy to read and address them.

Martin Hopkinson,

I was not disputing the identification - only wondering if he was wearing the robes awarded by another academic institution perhaps as a result of an honorary degree award by a Free Church organisation. Certainly the robes do look different from those of the period associated with the University of Aberdeen

The University of Aberdeen has asked us to update the title of this work to 'Portrait of Professor Stewart Dingwall Fordyce Salmond (1838-1905)'.

I think the discussion can be left open, as the topic question isn't negated by updating the title of the painting.

Kieran Owens,

Marion, has Osmund not already answered the topic question by identifying, last July, the artist as James Alexander Hay Hector (Aberdeen, 24th September 1868 - Aberdeen, 4th June 1940)?

The Aberdeen Post Office Directory of 1905/1906 lists Hector as "artist and teacher of drawing, 26, Union Row", an address that he shared with the sculptor W. H. Buchan. The Directory also notes that he was Art Master at the Aberdeen United Free Church Training College. (See attached).

Extensive and relevant biographical details of the life of J. A. H. Hector can be found on the following World War forum.

http://www.circlecity.co.uk/wartime/board/index.php?page=103

Kieran Owens,

J. A. H. Hector's contribution to the mural in St. John the Evangelist Scottish Episcopal Church in Aberdeen can be read about here:

https://www.stjohnsaberdeen.co.uk/history/

J. A. H. Hector married Maggie Jane Simpson Badenoch in Aberdeen in 1901. Unfortunately, the above-referenced article mis-identifies Gertrude Mary Hector (Calcutta, 1888 - Aberdeen, 1972) as their daughter. This celebrated Aberdonian jewellery designer, the author of several books relating to the Arts & Crafts movement, including 'Peeps at Arts & Crafts' (A & C Black, 1928), was the Calcutta-born daughter of the Reverend John Hector, D.D., of Duff College, Calcutta, and his wife Margaret Pittendrigh, who were married in Calcutta on the 21st November 1876.

Osmund, I am sorry. You had, of course, answered the topic question by identifying the artist, as well as the sitter.

Kieran, thank you. We can update both artist and sitter, and close the discussion.

Marion, if you can leave it up for a few days I'll post an edited summary 'life' of Hector, since I doubt there is one: if anyone can confirm the nature of the stained glass memorial windows he designed for 'Nigg Church, St Ninian’s Church, Aberdeen and the Gordon Schools, Huntly' that would be useful - I suspect some if not all may be WW1-related.

E Jones,

The stained glass window in the Gordons School was indeed in memory of pupils and teachers that fell in the Great War. It was unveiled in August of 1921.

The War Memorials Trust recently awarded a grant for conservation and repair. There is fair amount of detail about the window on it’s website, accompanied by some photographs.

http://www.warmemorials.org/search-grants/?gID=1213

E Jones,

A stained glass window was placed in the west transept of St. Ninian’s Church, Aberdeen in the memory of Mr Robert Whyte Thomson of 108 Hamilton Place Aberdeen. He was the sole partner of a firm that produced gloves and hosery in Aberdeen. It was unveiled in March of 1923.

Above, is an attachment of an article that was published in the Aberdeen Press and Journal on 23rd of March 1923.

There seems to be some confusion over the 'Aberdeen Training Centres', which include two relating to Scottish free churches, either one which -or perhaps a third - that eventually became part of Aberdeen University (which hold records of one or more without entirely clear disambiguation). I have not yet found a reference to Aberdeen Design College which is a phrase that has also been used in this discussion stream as where Hector long lectured, but clearly intends whichever (teacher) Training Centre it was. The other point of useful disambiguation (if there is one) is between his early studio at 26 Union Row and a later reference to one in Union Street: since the latter is the main shopping street in Aberdeen and the Row is off it, I thnk they really mean the same thing, which suggests Hector kept his studio in the Row from whenever he took it in about 1900 right through his tenure at the training college until a late move to Marischal Street a little after his college retirement in 1933.

Kieran Owens,

Extracted from various newspaper articles, here is a rough chronological list of Hector's various teaching appointments:

1888 - Gray's/Aberdeen School of Art (Student & Assistant lecturer)
1889 - Gray's/Aberdeen School of Art
1892 - Gordon's College (Appointed drawing master)
1898 - Aberdeen School of Design (Teacher)
1899 - Aberdeen School of Design
1900 - Aberdeen School of Design (Master)
1901 - Aberdeen School of Design
1902 - Aberdeen School of Design
1903 - Aberdeen School of Design
1904 - Aberdeen School of Design
1905 - Aberdeen School of Design & Aberdeen United Free Church Training College
1906 - Aberdeen School of Design
1907 - Aberdeen Provincial Training Centre (Appointed instructor)
1933 - Aberdeen Provincial Training Centre (Retired)

The Aberdeen School of Design, which was located on Union Row, opened in 1892. The attached articles give some context to its establishment and success.

Thanks for those Kieran. So Hector both had a studio at 26 Union Row c. 1900 (shared with Buchan, the sculptor) and the Aberdeen School of Design was also in the Row and where he taught to at least 1905: also (as noted in 1893) our sitter above, Professor Salmond, was either 'chairman' of the School -as the report seems to say -or possibly of the Aberdeen Schools Board under auspices of which it was then also noted as operating.

I see that your earlier extract from the 1905 Aberdeen PO directory entry does resolve the disambiguation issue of which 'Training' college Hector was linked to from at least then on -i.e. the 'Aberdeen United Free Church Training College', in Charlotte Street at that time.

The apparent answer to the general confusion of names is that in 1905 there was a general reorganisation of teacher training operations which appears to be where the title 'Aberdeen Provincial Training College/ Centre' (APTC) derives, i.e. from a general amalgamation -though not apparently including the more 'artisanal' Aberdeen College of Art, since it is not mentioned in the list of archives of the various previous constituency bodies now held by Aberdeen University:http://calms.abdn.ac.uk/DServe/dserve.exe?dsqServer=Calms&dsqIni=Dserve.ini&dsqApp=Archive&dsqCmd=Show.tcl&dsqDb=Catalog&dsqPos=0&dsqSearch;=(RefNo='msu 1421')

The only authority I think we have so far for Hector's appointment to teach at the APTC is his obituary statement that he was appointed at age 36 and was there for thirty years: the WWI site entry on him also gives a specific retirement date of 23 June 1933. He would have been 35 in September 1903 so the 'thirty years' based on an implied start date of 1903 may well be approximate - more like 28 if from 1905, which is the earliest exact one we have (from the PO directory).

It therefore looks as if the 'Aberdeen School of Design' had nothing to do with the APTC (i.e. there is -so far- no evidence linking them organisationally). Prof. Salmond as Principal of the Free Church College was either Chairman of the former or the Aberdeen School Board under which it was operating in the 1890s, but he died in 1905, which was also when the APTC originated by amalgamation: so there was no continuing link with him either save that Hector was asked to paint his posthumous portrait for the Free Church College, through which it passed to the University.

That leaves us with Hector involved -with some overlap - with two separate organisations: the Union Row artisan 'Design School' and his main appointment to the APTC, apparently from about 1904/5 rather than strictly for 30 years from 1903.

I did wonder for a moment whether the Hector/Buchan shared 'teaching studio' in Union Row was, in fact, the 'Aberdeen School of Design', but Kieran's press reports seem to show its masters were other people without mentioning his name: the co-location none the less suggests some sort of practical link. The timeline also now suggests c. 1893-97 as the period when Hector would have been in Paris and Brittany.

Kieran Owens,

Pieter,

the 1900 catalogue for the Exhibition of the Royal Scottish Academy lists Hector with an address at 26, Union Row, while the 1903 edition of Slater's Directory for Scotland lists him as the Principal of the Aberdeen School of Design, then located at the same address. From these listings, it would seem that both his studio and the Aberdeen School of Design were located at the same place. In the same year of 1903, Hector was the Drawing Master at the Aberdeen United Free Church Training College & Practicing School, of which the Rev. Professor Salmond D.D., was President.

In 1904, Hector was advertising his art classes at the No. 26 (see attached). By 1907, Hector was listed as living at 41, Salisbury Terrace. He was still Principal of the School of Design at 26, Union Row.

In 1908 he was was Vice-President of the Committee of the Northern Arts Club, still with an address at the Aberdeen School of Design:

http://www.historicalpageants.ac.uk/pageants/1138/

The 1911 and 1923 editions of The Year's Art also lists Hector as being at 26, Union Row, Aberdeen.

E Jones,

I’d collected some information last week regarding James Hector, thought it may be of use.

*He was awarded free studentships in 1888
*Amalgamation dates
*Full Post office History
*Full RAF Service record.
*Dates serving with BEF in France etc.

6 attachments

Many thanks to both: I'll look at all those and adjust accordingly, though I'm pleased to see my suspicion of the improbability of Hector and the Design School both being in Union Row just as a location coincidence was correct: i.e. it looks like he was the Design School.

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