Thursday, September 12, 2013

Random Inspiration: Howard Somerville (Updated)

Norahoil on canvas
124.5 X 100 cm

In the current age, when there is so much information so readily available at our fingertips, it can be maddening to find oneself at a dead end while researching a public figure.  It is hard to imagine that an artist who has more than three dozen paintings in public museums, would have no accessible biographical information online.  Nevertheless, such is the case with portrait artist Howard Somerville.  If there is any 20th century representational artist who has a claim to being pushed into obscurity, it is Somerville.

We know where he was from:  most sources say that he was British - one specified that he was Scottish - so it is probably safe to say he was from the United Kingdom.  We know he was born in 1873 and died in 1952.  We know Somerville was a contemporary of Sir William Orpen, and that by the look of his work, either studied with Orpen, or at least emulated the Irishman.  And we know he was not T. Howard Somervell, winner of an Olympic Gold Medal and the climber who scaled Mt. Everest in 1922, even though Wikipedia directs all enquiries into Somerville to Somervell's page. 

And that is about the extent of the information available on Howard Somerville.

I have contacted a curator in England whose museum owns several of Somerville's paintings, and I hope that she may be able to provide me with a biography on the artist.  I also welcome any information  that readers of this blog can provide.  In the meantime, please enjoy these samples of Howard Somerville's paintings.

UPDATE:  September 12, 2013.  Jill Iredale, Curator of Fine Art at the Cartwright Hall Art Gallery in Bradford, England, responded very quickly to my request for more information on Howard Somerville.  She confirmed that the artist is indeed Scottish;  he was born in Dundee in 1873.  Unfortunately, that is the extent of the museum's information.  Ms. Iredale would, as well, appreciate any additional information that may be uncovered about the artist.

As for now, Mr. Somerville remains a mystery.

Miss Nora Baring
oil on canvas
125 X 99 cm

Sylvia (1922)oil on canvas
101.6 X 76.2 cm

Mrs. Fred Young
oil on canvas
125.8 X 100.6 cm

oil on canvas
92.5 X 72 cm

Dame Bertha Surtees Phillpotts (1925)
oil on canvas
100 X 75 cm

Elizabeth Woodville
oil on canvas
76.2 X 63.5 cm

Diana Ogilvy
oil on canvas
220 X 150 cm

Alderman Charles Hardman, Mayor of Oldham
oil on canvas
152.5 X 101.5 cm

Zulu Head (1921)
oil on canvas
61 X 51 cm

Zulu with a Black Eyeoil on canvas
59 X 49 cm

Nigel, a Zulu
oil on canvas
91 X 76 cm

Joseph Estlin Carpenter
oil on canvas
86.4 X 62.2 cm

The Late Reverend Theodore Bailey Hardy, VC, DSO, MC (1919)oil on canvas
91.4 X 76.2 cm

Howard Somerville, Esq. (In the Studio)
oil on canvas
110 X 85 cm

The Artist and Model
oil on canvas
74.9 X 61.9 cm

In the Studio No. IV :  Self Portrait
oil on canvas
151 X 100 cm

oil on canvas
100 X 75 cm

Sir Henry Kenyon, Treasurer of the University of Sheffield
oil on canvas
120 X 86 cm

W.H. Brocklehurst, JP
oil on canvas
112 X 86.5 cm

Butler Wood
oil on canvas
112 X 88 cm

Sir James Hill
oil on canvas
152.5 X 101.5 cm

Lady Hill
oil on canvas
151 X 100.5 cm

Lady in Silk Dress with Pearls
oil on canvas
44 X 24 in.

Portrait of a Young Woman
oil on canvas
63.5 X 50.8 cm

The Chinese Fan
oil on canvas
74.5 X 62 cm

oil on canvas
74.7 X 62.1 cm

Julie with the Oranges
oil on canvas
76 X 63.5 cm

Joyce and a Mantilla Shawl
oil on canvas
92 X 76.8 cm

oil on canvas
128.4 X 103 cm

The Red Burnous
oil on canvas
126 X 102 cm

Elissa Landi
oil on canvas
125.9 X 99.5 cm

Howard Somerville's publicly-owned paintings are in the collections of many institutions in the United Kingdom, including: Gallery Oldham, The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea Culture Service, the Cartwright Hall Art Gallery, Girton College at the University of Cambridge, the Worchester Guildhall, the Russell-Cotes Art Gallery & Museum, the Atkinson Art Gallery Collection, Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens, the collection of the Lancaster City Council, The Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery at the University of Leeds, Harris Manchester College at the University of Oxford, the Watford Museum, the Walker Art Gallery, the Grundy Art Gallery, the collection of the South Ayrshire Council, the Potteries Museum & Art Gallery, the University of Sheffield, the Dundee Art Galleries and Museums, The Mercer Art Gallery, Portsmouth Museums and Record Service, the Imperial War Museums, and the Shipley Art Gallery.  There is also a portrait of "Joyce" (not pictured here) in the collection of the Huntington Museum of Art in West Virginia.


Drunk Si said...

I have nothing to say about Howard Somerville but I think it's worth pointing out that if some sources say he's Scottish and others British that isn't contradictory. The island itself is Britain so regardless of whether you're English, Welsh or Scottish either way you're technically going to be British.

We tend to keep our great and historic figures to ourselves but if one of the neighbouring countries produces a great sportsman or scientist or painter we may borrow them and then they become a British painter/athlete/whatever.

Karen Boe said...

It is sad to see that an artist of the "modern age" has faded into obscurity - especially regarding the quality of his life's work. Just beautiful stuff here.
Had never heard of him so thank you for the introduction and, yet again, for the inspiration.
I guess this is a moment to be thankful to be living in our time, one in which our every endeavor, be it humble, genius or just plain stupid, can be time-stamped and documented for prosperity - our mark left in time so easily. Makes me wonder what else has been lost to history - who else has fallen through the cracks and deserves better.
Thanks again for digging! ♥KB

Paul Corfield said...

The Russel Cotes Art Gallery is about 5 miles from where I live and I see they have the 'Eileen' painting. I haven't been to the gallery for a number of years so I'll take the family for a day out very soon and hopefully the painting will be on display.

Donald Jurney said...

Hi Matt,
I contacted Dinah Winch, at the Gallery Oldham, in the UK. She supplied a bit more:
"Born Dundee, ed. West End Academy and Univ. College Dundee
His death was announced in the Oldham evening Chronicle, though it does not mention that we have several works. Not only the Red Burnous but Zulu with a Black Eye and a portrait of the actress Norah Baring. All have been on display in the last few years.
OEC notice says that he died in Bristol nursing home and was a member of the International Society and Royal Soc of Portrait Painters and won silver and gold medals at the Paris Salon.
He is mentioned in the 1934 edition of Who’s Who in Art."

Re the Arcadia article, this painting of mine's on it's way to Greene St, to eventually go uptown to the Avenue show. Cheers, Donald