This is the thirty-fifth issue of Voices From the Past. My goal for each issue is to publish some highlights of one of my historical stories as well as an update on my activities. Please feel free to forward this e-newsletter to anyone you think might be interested.
The Story Behind a Picture
Mrs. Theodore Roosevelt and daughter
By Cecilia Beaux 1902 [age 47]
The White House Art Collection
(The following quotes are excerpts are from the book Background with Figures: Autobiography of Cecilia Beaux, published in 1930 when she was 75 years old.)
Did you ever wonder what goes on while a portrait is being painted?
Cecilia Beaux was commissioned to paint Mrs. Theodore Roosevelt in the White House.
“They generously devoted the Red Room to me for a studio, giving it up as a convenient breakfast room.”
The first daughter Ethel (11) “consented to literally ‘jump in’, greatly enlivening, I hope, her mother’s hours of posing. The warmth of the Red Room somehow got into the picture.”
However, not only was the Red Room normally the breakfast room but, Cecilia wrote it was also “a meeting place for morning affairs of the family, since ‘mother’ was to be consulted by every member before beginning the day.”
Ethel had four siblings – all boys. She was in the middle; her eldest brother was 15, her youngest 5.
“The collaboration of the children was in a special form of entertainment. All of them knew the poems of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow by heart, but ‘King Olaf’ was a favorite because it was a drama, and roles might be selected, or rather shouted for. The first in the field, which began far outside the door, became the victor for the title role.”
"Strike the sails!" King Olaf said;
"Never shall men of mine take flight;
Never away from my foes!
Of my life in the fight!” …
“When they all got going, it became a chorus in unison, several preferring to take the same part. Their mother was entirely unruffled by the noise and spirited commotion, which she was, of course, used to. She also took a part, prompting in all directions, when needed, as she, also, was letter perfect in every drama produced.”
“Generally the vocal torrent flowed around me without lessening or heightening the tempo of the painting which I was doing.”
“Then suddenly, the stampede would retreat, and in a twinkling, there was a silence. Through all that, Mrs. Roosevelt never changed her smile nor her mood.”
Now you know why most portrait painters want their subjects to pose in the artist’s studio…
News about me
I still have a few public performances this summer:-) PLEASE NOTE: my performance scheduled for July 31 at the Clifton Park-Halfmoon Public Library on Women in Paris: 1850-1900 has been canceled.
Thanks for reading this issue. I’ll be sending you some more story highlights in a few months.
Copyright 2018 by Kathryn Eike Dudding. All Rights Reserved.