When Malcolm Lyell left Holland & Holland in the late 80's and the company was sold to Chanel, the painting had been hanging in an office at Holland's with little attention paid to it. Malcolm when he had bought the Westley Richards agency in the early 50's had use of much of the contents of our Conduit Street shop. These included, furniture, signs, record books, William Bishop's Clock (which I now have back), his portrait and many other items from our past.
Roger Mitchell who took over as MD of Holland's approached my father with an offer to buy the painting and one which my father accepted. He blames the fact that he didn't really know what he was selling as hadn't really seen it that much. Whatever, the painting passed into Holland's hands and has remained there since.
In its own right the painting is a very good portrait executed by Henry Barraud in 1848 and one that shows the character of the Bishop very well, a man who was never caught without his Top Hat off! As a painting that hangs in another gunmakers gunroom I have never quite understood the relevance and why they would not rather promote their own history, founders and managers. It has always seemed strange that they allow the 'good management' of a Westley Richards gunroom to be displayed with such importance in their own place of business.
Over the years, I and many other of my good customers have tried to get the painting back, alas to no avail. I tried again once more last week and asked the current MD Daryl Greatrex if there was any chance to buy or exchange for money and a painting I have of a notable Holland client shooting and was told 'no' he thought there was no chance! I don't believe in all these years that the question has ever been asked of the man who could or would actually make the decision to let the painting return to the company it rightfully belongs but perhaps one day that will happen.
I think now I have to expose the painting and 'link it' permanently in peoples minds to Westley Richards so that when anyone visits the Holland & Holland gunroom they immediately think Westley Richards. Perhaps in the end this is better advertising use than having it myself!
Obviously any help from a 'well connected' person in getting the picture back would be most appreciated!!
The only photograph of the Bishop that I have ever come across and probably the one used for the portrait.
The William Bishop Clock and the Tombstone of 'Tiny' his dog who features in the painting sitting on the chair.
The original painting hanging in Holland & Holland's showroom.
Neill on November 16, 2016 at 11:30 am
It does seem rather churlish of H & H not to be prepared to accept a fair price, given the provenance of the painting. I wonder though if Daryl Greatrex is actually the one who could make the decision, knowing the way big companies work it might be the case that Chanel management really pull the strings and may not really care that much about the WR link.
I once worked for an engineering company with a long history and a family basis, and they were taken over by another British outfit who wanted to take down the portraits in the boardroom. These were of the early family engineers, including one who had been an apprentice for Robert Stephenson! They were jealous of the history!
Larry on November 16, 2016 at 12:02 pm
This is a great story and quite honestly, made me laugh a lot!
Peter B on November 16, 2016 at 3:39 pm
I do agree with Neill, but I also think you have been to much the gentleman dealing with whom you thought you should deal with, (that should be commended), you as the head of your company make the final decisions and deal with your customers and guest's alike in person, dare I say in most company's this doesn't happen these days! (it should).
I once rented a business premises and they were to raise the rent yet again so I made an appointment with the Managing Director of the company that owned it on the premise that I wanted to discuss this with him personally, when on meeting him I asked him immediately without hesitation to sell me the property, after his shock had passed he said make me an offer.
He had no personal interest in the property I don't think he even had any idea where it was, to him it was an asset he could dispose of without a second thought.
If I wanted to re-patriate this portrait and the owners (Chanel) didn't know who I was, they probably don't even realise they own it, I would play the same game again, and go directly to the top.
Good luck in your quest.
Gary Duffey on November 16, 2016 at 4:53 pm
This portrait, while it has a very historical and significant connection to WR is really in my opinion ephemera in the custody of H&H and should be viewed so. The companies histories have had some major intertwining, though it has been fairly recent in terms of both companies long histories. That history, from what I understand has been most positive. If I were the owner I would hope that I would recognize that nobody will value it more than WR and in that sense the portraits proper home is at the WR factory. The paintings "repatriation" will create much good will. That good will would most certainly be heralded from the platform that is The Explora and its significant traffic and viewership. Monetary and valuation considerations aside, If there is anything that we need among us, surely it must be good will. How much does good will go for these days?
Neil McVeigh on November 17, 2016 at 3:39 am
Simon simple solution,commission your own painting of the Bishop!There are no copyright issues due to passage of time.I know its not the original but sometimes you can"t always have what you want.
Simon Clode on November 17, 2016 at 3:55 am
The one in the post is a copy on canvas from Photo! You can't always get what you want, but you need to try!
Gary Penrice on November 18, 2016 at 4:32 am
Simon, I would suggest that where you have previously commented in your blog rather unfavorably about Holland & Holland has probably not done you any favours now when trying to acquire this painting. Previous negative comments by yourself are perhaps coming home to roost as they say!
Simon Clode on November 18, 2016 at 4:49 am
I am quite sure you are correct, they of course have no interest in assisting or pleasing us, it is a minor item amongst all their problems. This story has been going on long before the blog and it was just a note to say it was my "final attempt"!
neill mcInnis on November 28, 2016 at 9:07 pm
I just returned to the states from a wonderful week of shooting and sight seeing in around London. While visiting H & H I asked the very question we are talking about. " why have a portrait of the man who represents WR hanging in H & H?" The only response I received was I bet WR would love to have it back.! I saw possible humor in the response and informed this gentleman that I shoot Westley Richards. I hope you do get this painting back one day but I think H & H may enjoy owning it.
Simon Clode on November 29, 2016 at 12:24 am
I think even more so now I have drawn attention to it!
Alan Davey on November 18, 2016 at 7:36 am
These situations are toxic. Do what you are best at and commission a portrait of your father who saved the company.
I would suggest the most brilliant of contemporary portrait photographers, Nadav Kander
I have absolutely no connection with him, just an admirer. check him out.
Lajos on November 22, 2016 at 12:55 am
Agreee!!! And lets face what reality is...for the moment you cant have a better advertisement in H&H showroom than this. Thanks God they dont ask you to pay for this, because it would be a fortune! :)) Also, easily they could keep this is a tresor or in a workshop instead of the showroom.