Search

Mystery man in Royal Free Hospital painting identified as First World War doctor

09:00 01 August 2014

The portrait of Charles Brehmer Heald (1882–1974), consultant physician in physical medicine at the Royal Free Hospital. Picture: Royal Free Hospital

The portrait of Charles Brehmer Heald (1882–1974), consultant physician in physical medicine at the Royal Free Hospital. Picture: Royal Free Hospital

Royal Free Hospital

At first it seemed like an impossible mystery to solve.

A handsome portrait of a rheumatologist had formed part of the Royal Free Hospital’s collection of 179 oil paintings for many years.

But aside from the man’s profession, nothing about his identity, or that of the artist, was known – another anonymous face from history captured on canvas.

That was until the website Art Detective took up the case, channelling the collective wisdom of the public.

The website was set up by the Public Catalogue Foundation in April in the hope of finding out more about the 17,621 oil paintings by unknown artists in the collections of the National Gallery, the Tate and councils and hospitals nationwide.

The only information the Royal Free had about its painting was that the remover’s label was for Biddick & Co.

But when it appeared on Art Detective it sparked fierce interest.

Public user Alice Gibbs guessed the sitter was First World War doctor Charles Brehmer Heald (1882-1974), after others speculated about the dates of the painting.

The discussion gained pace and another user Paul Kettlewell found a short obituary in The Times.

Curator of 25 years Martin Hopkinson then discovered Dr Heald had been a founder member of the British Red Cross Clinic for Rheumatism and sourced some of his papers and letters, including a manuscript for an unpublished autobiography, from the University of Manchester Library.

While the artist remains 
unknown, further inspection by the Royal Free showed the painting appears to be an informal one, loosely painted and possibly a family portrait.

Andy Ellis, director of the Public Catalogue Foundation, said: “We are delighted that the unknown rheumatologist has been identified – it shows the power of what can be done when you ask the general public for help.

“In the two years ahead of the launch of Art Detective we used this image in many presentations and always thought someone would know who he was.”

If you fancy yourself as an amateur art historian, get involved by visiting thepcf.org.uk/artdetective/

0 comments

Comments

Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files
Comments

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Hampstead Highgate Express visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Hampstead Highgate Express staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Hampstead Highgate Express account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

Latest News Stories

Yesterday, 16:09
Planned engineering work could affect your journey this weekend.

There is a relatively minor programme of planned closures on the Tube and Overground network this weekend - but they could still affect your journey. Read on for the lowdown.

Yesterday, 15:51
Thieves attempted to steal a cash point machine from Highgate Post Office in Archway Road in the early hours of this morning.

Thieves attempted to steal a cash point machine from a post office in Highgate in the early hours of this morning.

Yesterday, 15:13
Professor Stephen Powis, medical director of the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust

Professor Stephen Powis, medical director of the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust, explains why the hospital believes its plans to construct a pioneering new research institute will bring huge benefits to local patients.

Yesterday, 12:45
Camden School for Girls pupil Hannah Morris, 15, speaks in the House of Commons

A Gospel Oak schoolgirl became one of the youngest people ever to make a speech in the House of Commons as members of the UK Youth Parliament held their annual debate in Westminster last Friday.

Most read news

Protesters have been warned they are banned from setting up camp at the landmark.

John Cantlie features in the new IS video, in which he talks about a recent failed military attack.

From Britain First’s Facebook posts, you would assume they’d won the Rochester by-election. They didn’t, but they’re claiming it anyway.

At 100 years old, this was Ruby Holt’s first visit to the beach – and the first time she saw the ocean.

Digital Edition

Image
Read the Hampstead & Highgate Express e-edition today E-edition