Saturday, February 11, 2012

Alford Usher Soord - The Lost Sheep

Alford Soord - A Brief Biography

Alford Usher Soord (1868-1915) was a British painter whose most famous work is a painting of The Parable Of The Lost Sheep, depicting a sheep stranded halfway down a steep cliff and the shepherd hanging perilously over the edge, risking his own life to save it.

Soord was born September 1, 1868, in Sunderland but brought up in York, at 1 St Martins Crescent, along with his siblings Helen and George. Soord's parents were Thomas Soord, Jr. (1832-1895) who was a corn merchant and Jane Latha Soord (b 1829). For several years Soord studied part-time at the York School of Art under John Windass, and afterwards at the Herkomer School of Painting at Bushey, founded by Sir Hubert von Herkomer. The Herkomer School’s students also included Lucy Kemp-Welch, who directed the School after Herkomer, George Harcourt, Amy Sawyer, Tom Mostyn, E. Borough Johnson, Henry Justice Ford, Roland Wheelwright, Hilda Fairbairn and C. L. Burns.

A number of Soord’s works were shown in the Royal Academy of Arts, including “Falls on the Conway” (1893), “The Golden Hour (1894), “Irish Fish-Girl” (1894), “Madame De X” (1897), “Portrait of a Lady (1898), “Wastwater, Cumberland" (1898), and "Portrait of Edward Wilson" (1910).

Soord’s most famous picture "The Lost Sheep" was also exhibited in 1898 in the Royal Academy. By 1916, over 300,000 reproductions of it had been sold in England and America; the work continues to be extremely popular more than a century after its creation.

Soord also worked as a magazine illustrator. Examples of his Illustrations titled “What Do You Think of That Letter?”, “There Isn’t Even a Watermark”, “The Boy Cried Out”, “I Watched”; all appear to illustrate a story in The Harmsworth Magazine of 1900.

Soord’s commission to paint the “Portrait of Edward Wilson” permitted the polar explorer, physician, naturalist, painter and ornithologist some unusual moments of quiet. Badly in need of rest, Wilson forced himself to “'sit absolutely still for four hours on end for 3 or 4 days running” in Soord’s studio. Soord also painted both of Wilson’s parents. Wilson would perish in Robert Falcon Scott's Terra Nova Expedition to the antarctic in 1912. Soord’s “Portrait of Percy Bysshe Shelley” which serves as the frontispiece of “The Life of Percy Bysshe Shelley” has been surrounded by scholarly comment for years, since the likeness resembles a work of Leonardo.

Soord married Evelyn Wayland Solly, who was born in September of 1865. She was the daughter of Edward Solly (F. R. S., F. R. A.) (1819-1886) and Alice S. Wayland (who were married September 13, 1851). Before her marriage, Miss Solly was herself an artist of note, who exhibited works titled “The Judgment of Paris” and “Babes in the Woods” in the Royal Academy in 1897. Her studio was at Merry-hill, Bushey, Herts. Evelyn and Alford Soord had two children, a son Chrystian, who was painted by Kate E. Cowdcroy in 1907, and who had a military career; and a daughter Mary whose grandson, musician David Izen, (whose father was the great clarinetist Bernard Izen) has posted a comment for us, which you may read, below.  (What a thrill to hear from a member of Soord's family!)

Alford U. Soord's studio was located at 11 Meadow Studio, Bushey. The bright and roomy studios were established by Sir Hubert von Herkomer to accommodate his art school students and associates. The studios were arranged in a long row connected by a corridor; each afforded amazing light from huge north facing skylights. The Meadow Studios were torn down in the 1970s. Soord died at Bushey on August 9, 1915.

Soord’s Paintings of Note Include:

Falls on the Conway, 1893
Irish Fish-Girl, 1894
The Golden Hour, 1894
Madame De X, 1897
Portrait of a Lady, 1898
The Good Shepherd, also known as: The Lost Sheep, St. Barnabas Church, Homerton, East London, England, 1898 or 1900
Figures in a Tree-lined Street with Church, Malton, North Yorks, 1890
H. R. H. The Duke of Clarence, 1893

Granny Wells, 1899
Beside the Bonnie Briar Bush, 1901
William Maitland, 1902
Lady Seated in an Interior, 1903
Young Woman Carrying a Water Jar along A Village Street, 1903
Christ Between Two Thieves
The Crucifixion – reredos – The Chapel, Oxford House in Bethnal Green, London, 1904
The Heavenly Host- Mural – St Andrew’s Church, Bethnal Green, London, 1904
The Crucifixion - St. Barnabas Church, Homerton, East London, England, 1906
The Crucifixion -
St. Bartholomew's Church, Brighton, 1912
And Some Fell Among Thorns, c1912
Percy Bysshe Shelley, 1913
Rt. Hon. Sir Herbert Maxwell, Bart, n.d. (biographer of Queen Victoria)
Edward Adrian Wilson, 1910 (The National Gallery)
John Reeve Brook (Bushey Museum of Art and Gallery)
Dr. Edward Thomas Wilson (Cheltenham Art Gallery and Museum)
Mrs. Edward Thomas Wilson (Mary Agnes Whishaw Wilson) (Cheltenham Art Gallery and Museum)
Portrait of an Unknown Man (Cheltenham Art Gallery and Museum)
Anthony Buckle (York Museums Trust)
Alderman Sir Joseph Sykes Rymer (York Guildhall)
Miss Thorpe (York Museums Trust)
Isabel Douthett (York Museums Trust)
Mrs. Lowman (York Museums Trust)

For illustrations of some of these, visit: Works by A. U. Soord

(This is the most complete biography of Alford Usher Soord available on-line. If you wish to have references concerning my research, or if you know of other works by Soord, please contact me.)


tim said...

Hubert von Herkomer painted the famous portrait of H. H. Richardson in exchange for an architectural design.

John A. Dalles said...

Yes, indeed. Those studios must have been splendid in their day.

Anonymous said...

We have 2 paintings by Alfred Soord hanging in St. Barnabas Church, Homerton, East London, England. One is the Lost Sheep and the other the Crucifixion. The Crucifixion is oil on canvas, 375x256cm dated 1906. signed Alfred Soord.

Churchwarden, St. Barnabas Church

John A. Dalles said...

Hello, Jane, Thanks for the additional information. It sounds as if your church may have the original of "The Lost Sheep". How thrilling. Soord seems to have done a number of versions of "The Crucifixion" in the 1900-1910 decade. I will add what you have told me to the list. All the best, John

Sandra said...

I have a painting of The Lost Sheep, it belonged to my great-aunt and uncle. It hung in their house ever since in can remember and I am 64 yrs. old, it is in black and white, they gave it to my father after my great-uncle died. I was just wondering if there is any value for this painting. I would appreciate anything you could tell me about this painting. Thanks, Sandra

John A. Dalles said...

You will want to show it to a reputable art or antiques appraiser. Black and white what? If an original charcoal drawing done and signed by Soord, it may be quite valuable. If a print, it may have a modest decorative value only.

Sandra said...

Thank you so much.

John A. Dalles said...

You are welcome! Let me know what you find out.

David Izen said...


Congratulations on your blog on Alfred Soord. I am his great grandson and remember growing up with his works around the house and still have a few myself.

It's so nice to hear of others taking such an interest in him as he is a relative. By the way, Alfred and Evelyn's other child was Mary, my grand mother.

Steve said...

Our church in Maryland has "The Lost Sheep" painting recreated as a stained glass window. I'd guess the window is 10 feet wide and 15 feet tall. It is directly at the front of the church and has been a backdrop for every sermon and other event that has happened in the chapel for years. Our pastor mentioned it this morning, I came home and did a little research and discovered this site.

John A. Dalles said...

Specifically for David, how wonderful to hear from you and to know more about the Soord family. I have tried to give as much information as I can here on the blog about your great grandfather. I will add the information about your grandmother in the text. If you have other information you would like me to include, I will be happy to do so. All best wishes...

Adrian Millen said...

interesting research, we have a large water colour painting of his painted 1903 of a shrimp fisherman

Adrian Millen said...

interesting research, we have a large water colour painting of his painted 1903 of a shrimp fisherman

Vonn Hartung said...

Thank you so much for your extensive and informative research! I first became acquainted with Alford Soord when I was asked to paint a likeness of "The Lost Sheep" painting as a 9ftx12ft altar piece in a chapel here in Puerto Rico ("Las Hermanas Misioneras del Buen Pastor") The image has inspired and comforted so very many people over the years; in fact one person even wrote a beautiful poem dedicated to the Lost Sheep.I will certainly share this blog information with the Sisters there. What a delight and honor to meet Alford Soord's great grandson on this page! Thank you again for your research and blog which has uncovered the fact that the original "Lost Sheep" painting hangs in St. Barnabas Church in the UK. Would love to see that someday!
Bless you, A.Vonn Hartung

Mommabear said...

I noticed his grandson spelled his name Alfred not Alford - comments?

Samuel said...

I thank God for this painting, the lost sheep.
May God bless the descendant of this blessed man, Alfred Soord.

Growing up as a kid in Nigeria, this painting blessed and inspired me some 23 years ago.
It still speaks to me today, blessed be the name of the lord Jesus Christ who gave his life for me.

Alison said...

Great to find this informative piece. I was actually researching Soord's wife, Evelyn, as I picked up a signed watercolour dated 1901, which I believe to be her work. I have not found any other images of her paintings to date.

As you state above she was an artist before her marriage and may well have given up, or simply supported her husband, who was clearly more successful. I'd be happy to post a photograph of it and her signature, if means are available, should it be of interest to your site and other researchers.


Adrian Millen said...

I have a water colour by Alfred Soord . amy thoughts on how I can sell it and realise a fair price?

Alison said...

Have you had the watercolour valued and verified as Alfred Soords work Adrian? Auction is likely to be the best place to sell but you probably woukd need to go to one of the bigger auction houses who would get your painting the recognition it deserves. The other options are to sell privately to an indivudual or dealer (who would be unlikely to pay the value price) or try ebay. I'd love to see it and do buy but my collecting budget is limited. Alison

Unknown said...

I would like to purchase Jesus the good shepherd craning down a cliff to save his sheep