|EmmetArt.com||Click here to return|
TIME Magazine, Monday, Aug. 23, 1954
Portraits often mirror the artist as much as their subjects. On the walls of the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield, Mass., last week, hung a collection of portraits that were animated with gentle strength of character, aglow with love of children. They depicted many famous men—Philosopher William James, Pablo Casals, Richard Harding Davis, Robert E. Sherwood (as a small boy). But what they described with even greater certainty was their creator, Ellen Emmet Rand, who plainly painted with malice toward none.
The collection showed 90 works of an artist who eagerly started to draw at four, and still eagerly painted at 66, when she died (in 1941). In her lifetime, she turned out about 800 paintings, also found time to marry and raise three sons.
In the '90s, San Francisco-born Ellen Rand, daughter of Christopher Temple Emmet (a lawyer and grandnephew of Irish Patriot Robert Emmet), went to study in Paris with Sculptor Frederick MacMonnies. "Everybody was running around that studio," a friend remembers, "nude male models, and there was even a panther in a cage. And here she came into this chaos and just sat there painting simply beautiful things." At the turn of the century, Ellen Rand held her first one-man exhibit in Manhattan, and the procession of the rich and famous to her studio began.
Painter Rand started a portrait of Teddy Roosevelt but had to give it up. "It was ridiculous," she recalled. "He couldn't sit still—especially with children going in and out of the studio with snakes and spiders." Later, Franklin D. Roosevelt was almost as difficult. She tried him first at Hyde Park in a room where 25 newsmen were interviewing the President. The second time, she painted the President in her Manhattan studio—from sketches. It was a gay portrait, showing the famous F.D.R. smile, and as soon as he saw it, F.D.R. himself ordered the smile off.
For her portraits, she was paid as much as $3,000 to $5,000. In one year (1930), she earned $74,000. Looking at her later pictures, her critics professed to long for her "earlier, freer work," before she was hemmed in by fashionable portraiture. Last week the Berkshire show gave critics a chance to reassess Ellen Rand's lifetime production. Their verdict: a good second to her contemporary, Mary Cassatt (1845-1926). America's best woman painter.