Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Put Me in the Frame as to Why Portrait Was Done

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Put Me in the Frame as to Why Portrait Was Done

Article excerpt

Byline: Tony Henderson Reporter

IT was a mystery which had Tyneside art dealer David Hirst intrigued.

He had bought two paintings in a recent sale at auctioneers Featonby's in North Shields which featured a pipe-smoking gent called FE Forster.

The first painting bears the title 'A Merry Christmas to Mr FE Forster' and includes the line: "Northumbrians at the Royal Academy."

It features a bust of Mr Forster "executed in terra cotta" against a background of toffs viewing works at the academy.

A couple, presumably from the North East, are shown with the caption: "Executed in terra cotta by Gum! Poor fellow, he's nen the less te be pitied wharever he's been executed."

The second painting shows a dapper, full-length Mr Forster smoking his pipe.

David, who runs Tynemouth Fine Art at the Linskill Centre in North Shields, has identified the portrait as being by Tyneside artist William Irving, who lived from 1866-1943.

He is best known for his depiction of the colourful characters from the Blaydon Races song in the painting of the same name, which is now on show at the Shipley Art Gallery in Gateshead.

Now David has embarked on a mission to find out more about the life and career of Mr Forster - and his role in a touching First World War story.

David's research has established that Mr Forster was a solicitor based in Grainger Street West in Newcastle and that the portrait dates from around 1920.

He also seems to have been a member of the gentlemen's Union Club in Westgate Road, which, after lying empty for 25 years, became the Wetherspoons Union Rooms pub.

David has also discovered a link between Mr Forster and the tragic fate of pipers of the Tyneside Scottish battalions of the Northumberland Fusiliers on the first day of the Battle of the Somme on July 1, 1916.

Ten pipers were killed as they led the men into the attack, with one of the objectives being La Boiselle, where the Tyneside Scottish suffered heavy losses.

David came across a report which described how later a British officer had found a fragment from pipes at La Boiselle which bore a small silver plate with the inscription: "Presented to the Tyneside Scottish by members which of the Union Club [per F. …

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