It started with an email from an Australian in London to David Hulme of Manly-based Banziger Hulme Fine Art Consultants. The gentleman explained he owned a portrait of his mother, painted in 1928 in Melbourne when she was just a girl of 16 – but the painting was not signed.
Could David Hulme help in confirming who painted it? Was it perhaps seven-times Archibald Prize Winner William Beckwith McInnes as had long been suspected by her family but never known for sure?
The lady in question, Leonora Rush (née MacKay), a former North Shore PLC girl, is still alive at 98 and living in England. She clearly remembers sitting for the artist when staying with her aunt in Melbourne.
Her son, a former St Ives resident, Jonathan Rush said: “My mother always claimed the artist was somebody famous who had won the Archibald Prize but she couldn’t recall his name. She never knew why he wanted to paint her. I’d like to think he was struck by her innocent beauty. ”
According to David Hulme: “Our research, comparison and expert advice have now confirmed that the beautiful portrait is indeed by W.B. McInnes. He was one of Australia’s most celebrated portrait painters of the 1920s and 30s, winning the inaugural Archibald Prize in 1921. Incredibly he went on to win the coveted portraiture prize another six times. Luckily, Leonora got to keep her portrait, and we can see now why McInnes asked her to model for him.”
This is another example that shows paintings without a signature can be proven beyond reasonable doubt by experts to be by a certain artist, and can then be authenticated and valued accordingly.