A Pen and Ink Sketch of Walter Greenwood by Louis Ollier (1934?)

In my Greenwood collection I have this original pen and ink portrait sketch, signed by the artist Louis Ollier and by Greenwood himself.

I think it is likely to date to the years 1933 to 1934 because it shows Greenwood without the moustache which he seems to have adopted in 1935 (and never thereafter abandoned). It also closely resembles the photograph in his 1933 Salford council election leaflet (he was not elected that time, but was when he stood for another Salford ward in 1934).

Image scanned from copy in the author’s Greenwood collection. Is he perhaps in both sketch and photo wearing one of his red ties? (see Walter Greenwood’s Tie),

I have found some traces of the artist Louis Ollier, though his biography remains obscure. One might think given his trade that he would have had some public profile, but there seem to be no newspaper reports of him as a portrait sketcher – unless he is by some chance the ‘Private Louis Ollier’ of the 8th Cheshire Regiment, whose sketching prize was reported by the Chester Chronicle as early as 7/12/1918 (p.3):

Congratulations to Pte. Louis Ollier, of the 8th Cheshires, stationed at Kirkee, Poona, India, for having won the second prize for black and white sketches at the Poona Exhibition. He has also had one of his humorous sketches accepted and reproduced by the ‘Blighty’ picture postcard publishers, and isa regular contributor of humorous drawings to Khaki Opinion, an Indian military journal. He is the son of Mr. and Mrs. Ollier, of Albert Street, Crewe.

More certainly, a Google Image search currently brings up nine other portrait sketches signed by him – each also signed by the subject (in fact, these sketches are generally for sale precisely because they include autographs). Each sketch is of a public figure – stage, variety and film actors, writers, a composer, political figures – and include Robert Taylor, Sybil Thorndyke, Edward G. Robinson, Sir Harry Lauder, G.K. Chesterton, R.C. Sherriff, Sidney Horler, Albert Ketelby, and Lloyd George. The format in each case is broadly similar – a pen and ink sketch with the two signatures of artist and subject – but they vary between full-length and head and shoulders portraits. The only discussion I have found of Ollier concurs that little is known of his biography, but also identifies a number of his sketches as being for sale online in recent years. This discussion is on a site dedicated to images and toys of Felix the Cat called Pam’s Pictorama (see https://pams-pictorama.com/tag/louis-ollier/) – Ollier features because he signed a (non-copyright observant) sketch of Felix. ‘Pam’ suggests that Ollier made a living by sending his sketches to public figures with a request that they autograph them and post them back to him if they meet with their approval. She thinks he then sold the original or made prints of them for sale. This is also the view of the Worthpoint antiques and collectables website which has some further Ollier sketches of a similar kind for sale, including one of the the song-writers and comic singers, Flannagan and Allen. The site also has items which seem to bear out the idea that Ollier offered printed versions of his sketches to clients – these include three notes or letters written on ‘sketch’-headed notepaper featuring themselves by the three writers A.E.W. Mason, Arthur Conan Doyle, and Rider Haggard (see https://www.worthpoint.com/inventory/search?query=louis+ollier&categories=). That site also has one further sketch which may perhaps add something to our understanding of Greenwood’s signature on his Ollier sketch. It is of the veteran socialist Tom Mann (1856-1941), who was certainly someone of note, but seems a slightly unusual target for a ‘celebrity’ hunter. Perhaps Ollier was someone known to have socialist sympathies – which might explain Greenwood signing off ‘fraternally’? ‘Pam’ thinks Ollier’s portrait sketches are ‘frankly uninspiring’, but I feel the likeness of the young Greenwood is good – capturing the shy reserve which was something of a characteristic throughout his life.