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What else happens at Art Detective, besides the public Discussions that we are best known for? This is a selection of artworks that were listed on Art UK as 'unknown artist' or by school, whose artists have been identified now. This initial selection will be added to. The short texts only offer a glimpse of the evidence and of the effort that goes into such discoveries, which often involves asking the collection to check the object itself and its file. This curation is to thank all those who give so much of their free time to updating and correcting this vast database of the nation's art.
13 artworks
  • William M. Hay (b.c.1831)

    Andrea Kollmann spotted that this portrait was signed on the right, above the sitter’s arm. A high-resolution image confirmed that it read ‘W. M. Hay / –89’, suggesting that this is a pendant to Hay's lovely portrait of Giffard’s wife, Maria Jane Marrett Jandron (1889), at Jersey Museum and Art Gallery.

    John Francis Giffard (b.1847), Ecurier, Juré, Justicier 1889
    William M. Hay (b.c.1831)
    St Peter Parish Hall, Jersey
    John Francis Giffard (b.1847), Ecurier, Juré, Justicier
    Photo credit: St Peter Parish Hall, Jersey

  • James Andrews (1824–1870)

    The question of whether James Andrews painted this portrait of Henry Bolckow in 1854 was first raised in a 2015 Art Detective Discussion about another portrait in Middlesbrough, that of ‘Enoch Wood (1759–1840)’.

    Barbara Bryant, Group Leader for Portraits: British 19th century noted that it was clear from Tim Williams’ post and much information provided by Osmund Bullock on that discussion, that Andrews was the artist and 1854 the date. Primary evidence was found in council records. It is so good that that unintended, yet very fruitful outcome of the public discussion about Enoch Wood was properly concluded by updating this work in 2020.

    Henry William Ferdinand Bolckow, First Mayor of Middlesbrough 1854
    James Andrews (1824–1870)
    Middlesbrough Town Hall
    Henry William Ferdinand Bolckow, First Mayor of Middlesbrough
    Photo credit: Middlesbrough Town Hall

  • John Cuthbert Salmon (1844–1917)

    Kieran Owens suspected that the signature ‘J. L. Salmon’ had been misread and that this could be a self portrait by John Cuthbert Salmon, RCA (1844–1917). Salmon was a long-standing member of the Royal Cambrian Academy. In 1918, the year after his death, fifteen of his works were exhibited there as a posthumous tribute.

    A high-resolution image confirmed ‘J. C.’ and a composite of signatures confirmed the identity of the artist as John Cuthbert Salmon. The J., the C., and the initial capital S. as well as the "Dürer" A and the exaggerated N at the end of both versions were very similar. The inscription implies that this was a Christmas gift from the artist to his daughter in 1911.

    Self Portrait 1911
    John Cuthbert Salmon (1844–1917)
    Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru / The National Library of Wales
    Self Portrait
    Photo credit: Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru / The National Library of Wales

  • Paulus Vischer (c.1498–1531)

    Alistair Brown was able to tell us that Canterbury Museums and Galleries’ bizarre bronze ‘Wild Man’ is a version of a model by Paulus Vischer (c.1498–1531). This is the is only work of Vischer’s in a UK public collection, as far as we know. Other versions are in the Bode Museum, Berlin, and have appeared (holding the full club that is partly absent in this version) on the art market.

    Wild Man early 16th C
    Paulus Vischer (c.1498–1531)
    Canterbury Museums and Galleries
    Wild Man
    Photo credit: Canterbury Museums and Galleries

  • Henry Tanworth Wells (1828–1903)

    Both Martin Hopkinson and Paul Kettlewell identified the unknown artist as Henry Tanworth Wells (1828–1903).

    Martin found that Henry Tanworth Wells exhibited this as no. 664 at the Royal Academy in 1874, the catalogue reading 'Painted for the Congregation Memorial Hall', while Paul sent us a record from the 'York Herald' of 17 May 1875, which recorded the artist as 'Mr H. T. Wells RA'.


    Samuel Morley (1809–1886), MP c.1873–1874
    Henry Tanworth Wells (1828–1903)
    The Congregational Memorial Hall Trust (1978) Limited
    Samuel Morley (1809–1886), MP
    Photo credit: The Congregational Memorial Hall Trust (1978) Limited

  • Francis Leggatt Chantrey (1781–1841)

    Jacinto Regalado identified Francis Leggatt Chantrey as the sculptor of the Bank of England's fine marble bust of political economist Francis Horner. Chantrey also made the statue of Horner in Westminster Abbey (1820). No other busts of Horner are known.

    Francis Horner (1778–1817)
    Francis Leggatt Chantrey (1781–1841)
    Bank of England
    Francis Horner (1778–1817)
    Photo credit: Bank of England

  • Francis Lynch (1866–1932)

    Tony Kitto found a letter from Francis Lynch to the ‘Burnley Express’ of March 1925 in which he identified himself as the creator of this late-nineteenth-century copy of an early-seventeenth-century panel painting of the Towneley family at prayer. The copy was painted for Lady O'Hagan in 1890. The wonderful original panel, dated 1610, was given to the collection by Maurice Towneley-O'Hagan, 3rd Baron O'Hagan, in 1939.

    The Towneley Family at Prayer c.1890
    Francis Lynch (1866–1932)
    Towneley Hall Art Gallery & Museum
    The Towneley Family at Prayer
    Photo credit: Towneley Hall Art Gallery & Museum

  • John Archibald Alexander Berrie (1887–1962)

    Kieran Owens identified the unknown artist from his signature as John Archibald Alexander Berrie (1887–1962). Three attachments showing newspaper cuttings from the 'Liverpool Echo' of 1931 gave clear support to this attribution, especially one showing a close-up detail of the painting.

    Professor William Blair-Bell (1871–1936), First President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (1929–1931) 1931
    John Archibald Alexander Berrie (1887–1962)
    Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists
    Professor William Blair-Bell (1871–1936), First President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (1929–1931)
    © the copyright holder. Photo credit: Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists

  • John Watson Gordon (1788–1864)

    Elin Jones found out that this portrait of famous surgeon David Maclagan is by the well-known Scottish portrait painter John Watson Gordon, who was President of the Royal Scottish Academy. John Watson Gordon also painted Mrs Jane Whiteside, who was Dr Maclagan’s wife. Elin concluded that the painting was apparently also the source for an 1847 mezzotint of David Maclagan by James Faed (After John Watson Gordon), although the glasses and medal are not present.

    A copy of this portrait can be found in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery.

    David Maclagan (1785–1865)
    John Watson Gordon (1788–1864)
    Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh
    David Maclagan (1785–1865)
    Photo credit: Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh

  • Alfred Borron Clay (1831–1868)

    Martin Hopkinson pointed out that the picture was signed bottom left. Edward Stone confirmed from a larger image that it read 'A. B. Clay. 1862' and suggested Alfred Barron Clay (1831–1868). Ann Andrews sent a report from the ‘Preston Chronicle’ of 13 June 1874 that Addison had chosen Alfred Borron Clay to paint his portrait. Paul Kettlewell supplied an article from the ‘Blackburn Standard’ of 17 September 1862, recording the presentation of a full-length portrait of Thomas Batty Edison, Esq. as the work of Mr Alfred Clay.

    Thomas Batty Addison, Esq. (1788–1874) 1862
    Alfred Borron Clay (1831–1868)
    Her Majesty's Court Service, Preston Crown Court
    Thomas Batty Addison, Esq. (1788–1874)
    Photo credit: Her Majesty's Court Service, Preston Crown Court

  • Frank Thomas Copnall (1870–1949)

    Alistair Brown and Andrea Kollmann each identified the signature on this picture as that of Frank Thomas Copnall. Andrea drew our attention to its strong similarities with other works by the artist, especially the portrait of Second Lieutenant John Ryder Clark (1898–1917) at the National Army Museum.

    Second Lieutenant Edward Deacon Ashton served with the 9th Battalion of the Lancashire Fusiliers. He was killed in action on 1st July 1916.

    Second Lieutenant Edward Deakin Ashton (1889–1916) 1916
    Frank Thomas Copnall (1870–1949)
    The Fusilier Museum, Bury
    Second Lieutenant Edward Deakin Ashton (1889–1916)
    Photo credit: The Fusilier Museum, Bury

  • Samuel Sidley (1829–1896)

    This portrait of Francis Trevithick, one of the first locomotive engineers of the London and North Western Railway (LNWR), has been attributed to Samuel Sidley (1829–1896). Paul Kettlewell and Kieran Owens provided contemporary newspaper reports identifying the artist as 'Mr Sidley of Manchester', while Richard Beales informed us that a lithograph of this painting is inscribed 'from the painting by S. Sidley in their possession'. Kieran Owens provided biographical details about the artist.

    Francis Trevithick (1812–1877), London and North Western Railway, Holding a Drawing of the Locomotive 'Cornwall' 1855
    Samuel Sidley (1829–1896)
    National Railway Museum

  • William Ashley Hold (b.1964)

    Kieran Owens identified the unknown artist as William Ashley Hold (b.1964). After contacting the artist, Kieran was able to update and amend the record, which included correcting the medium from acrylic to oil.

    Dr John Rea (b.1943), Principal of the College of Saint Mark and Saint John (1995–2003) 2003
    William Ashley Hold (b.1964)
    University of St Mark & St John
    Dr John Rea (b.1943), Principal of the College of Saint Mark and Saint John (1995–2003)
    © the artist. Photo credit: University of St Mark & St John