Rear-Admiral Sir Murray Frazer Sueter, 1872-1960

A head and shoulders portrait, with the sitter's head shown in left profile, wearing modified mess dress including an evening cloak and with medal miniatures. Sueter was the son of a Fleet paymaster. He entered the 'Britannia' training ship as a cadet in 1886 and subsequently became a torpedo specialist. From 1902 he was in the gunboat 'Hazard', the first parent ship for submarines, on which he became an authority and wrote a significant early book. He subsequently showed an early interest in air power and, after various sea commands, in 1912 became director of the Admiralty’s air department in the rank of commodore. After the outbreak of the First World War, he was largely responsible for the rapid build-up to full war strength of the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) supported by Winston Churchill and Lord Fisher. Sueter was imaginative and ingenious: to a greater or lesser degree he was instrumental in the rapid development of seaplanes, the Navy's successful use of non-rigid airships for submarine spotting during the war, the creation of the Royal Naval Air Serviced (its split from the Royal Flying Corps being his suggestion), the development of the air-launched torpedo and of the tracked armoured car, which heralded that of the tank. It was when he wrote directly to George V drawing attention to both his and two other officers' contribution on the last front that the Admiralty, with whom the relations of such an original, innovative mind and a strong character were not always smooth, took offence and relieved him of his command (by this time of RNAS units in southern Italy in 1918). Despite his objections he was not employed again and was placed on the retired list in 1920, though subsequently promoted from commodore to rear-admiral. After the war he helped develop empire air-mail postal services, and he received the thanks of three successive postmasters-general for his assistance in this. From 1921 to 1945 he was also MP for Hertford, originally as an independent but then Conservative. He was knighted in 1934.

Sir William Russell Flint (1880–1969) was a painter of landscapes, seascapes, gypsies and flamenco dancers, but is best known for his drawings and watercolours of female nudes. He was above all a watercolourist but also worked more occasionally in oils. This portrait was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1928 and was given to the Museum by the artist in 1964, when he told Teddy Archibald, its Curator of Paintings, that it was the only portrait he ever painted. He perhaps meant the only one up to when he did so, since there is another at Magdalen College, Oxford, of the eminent physiologist Sir Charles Scott Sherrington, which he did in 1929, but they are the only two in British institutional collections. The possible reason he began with this one is that Sueter was his brother-in-law: in 1905 Flint had married his artist sister, Sybil (who like her brother also died in 1960). Sueter's own wife Elinor - only daughter of the civil engineer and colonial administrator, Sir Andrew Clarke - had died in 1948 and, for whatever reason, this portrait seems to have remained with the Flints rather than Sueter's two daughters. Flint's son, Francis, was also a good painter and the Imperial War Museum has three Second World War naval subjects by him.

Object Details

ID: BHC3046
Collection: Fine art
Type: Painting
Display location: Not on display
Creator: Flint, William Russell
Date made: 1928
People: Sueter, Murray Frazer
Credit: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London
Measurements: Painting: 610 mm x 510 mm; Frame: 792 mm x 660 mm x 100 mm

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