Wednesday, August 31, 2022

578. An Early Portrait of Charles Ricketts by Charles Shannon?

A year ago, an enigmatic painting was auctioned at Christie's. At the time, I missed its advertisement as the 'property of a gentleman'. The painting was sold on 15 July 2021 as lot 139 in live auction 20111, 'British and European Art'. Described as a painting by Charles Hazelwood Shannon, it was said to be a 'Portrait of Charles Ricketts, painted at Kennington Road, Lambeth'.

Charles Shannon, 'Portrait of Charles Ricketts,
painted at Kennington Road, Lambeth', before 1900

The title in the catalogue was dictated by an inscription (in capitals) on the back of the frame: 'Portrait of Charles Ricketts RA Painted at Lambeth By Charles Shannon RA Before 1900'. The figure portrayed, given the red hair, could indeed be Ricketts, whose beard, incidentally, is hidden behind his hand. But the inscription is not an early one. Behind both names is the abbreviation RA, because of their election to the Royal Academy, which for Ricketts only occurred in 1928, three years before his death. The date 'before 1900' is probably based on the provenance: apparently this painting belonged to J.W. Gleeson White, a close friend of Ricketts and Shannon who died quite young in 1898.

A similar early painting by Shannon - a breakfast scene, a figure with half-hidden face, a painting that looks sketchy, swiftly painted, summery and light - is not known to me.

The reverse side of the painting tells many other stories, that is, fragments of stories, by means of labels. (For an image, see Christie's website.)

The most worn label is that of the frame maker: Müller & Co, based at 62 High Holborn with branches elsewhere. Above the address, the words 'Forty Years' seem to be decipherable, and as the firm was founded in 1847 this would indicate a year after 1887. That year Ricketts and Shannon moved from Kennington Park Road to Edith Terrace, Brompton.

A second label dates from later times and has been pasted over another label that states the name of the then owner: Wyndham T. Vint: 'This Picture is the Property of Wyndham T. Vint Commercial Bank Building'. The label, partly pasted over it, shows a number and an address, is further torn and scuffed, but the address is clearly that of another frame maker and fine art packers: James Bourlet & Sons at 17 & 18 Nassau Street, London. Bourlot may have packed the painting for transport to an exhibition.

There are also two labels that have been applied for exhibitions. The first dates from 1954 when the Bradford Art Gallery held a Jubilee Exhibition to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the Cartwright Memorial Hall. 

The second exhibition was called 'Semi-Detached. Pictures of Peoples and Places', and was held from 7 April to 13 May 1984 in the Southampton City Art Gallery. This label states that the owner is a firm of solicitors: Vint Hill and Killock of Bradford - originally: Charles John Vint (died 1944), Frank Herbert Hill, Henry Killick (left the partnership in 1924) & Wyndham Theodore Vint (the name Vint, Hill & Killick continued to be used after 1924). 

Benjamin Wyndham Theodore Vint's collection of paintings led to exhibitions at Airdrie Public Library (1936), Whitechapel Art Gallery (1939), the Aberdeen Art Gallery (1944) and Dundee Public Libraries (1944). In 1956 works from his collection were exhibited at the Ferens Art Gallery in Hull. Vint lived at Thorn Cottage Farm, Wroot, near Doncaster, and he collected works by Maurice de Vlaminck, Augustus John, William Orpen and others. He was born in 1882 and died in 1959. (Vint had other interests; he won many a prize with his pigs.)

Another label seems to be related to an auction and states something quite different from the first inscription: 'Charles Hazelwood Shannon Self Portrait', with the numbers '349' and 'WTV221'. Let us assume that this - the assumption that it is a self-portrait - is a mistake.

In summary: previous owners were Gleeson White and Vint - but who is the owner now?

What do we actually see in the painting? Ricketts or Shannon? Kennington Park Road or Edith Terrace? 

Are there any other clues - perhaps in the catalogues mentioned, to which I do not have access here in The Hague?