An American Portrait Unnamed
a John Singer Sargent painting?
I am searching for the identity of
this sitter -- if you know please write.
I received an interested e-mail [in
1999]. Graham Dugas (gd ug firstname.lastname@example.org) apparently had this painting
and wanted to know its value and how to sell it. I directed him as best
He had very little information and
was seeking the identity of the sitter.
If all this is true, and if it is
a Sargent, than this must have been an American portrait. The fact that
it was located in Florida tells me that it was probably brought there by
an owner whom had retired and moved from the East Coast, maybe Boston,
maybe New York, if I were to guess.
John had made one trip to Florida
in 1917 but it was after he had given up portraiture.
The fact that this is a very classical
pose might indicate that it was a commissioned portrait and not a friend
From: Graham Dugas
(g du email@example.com)
Date: Tuesday, June 8, 2004
Wow, I had no idea that it has been
up on your site all this time. I certainly thank you.
Attached is the original MS Word
document that bears all the facts I knew at the time I approached the keepers
of the catalogue. Thank you for your openness in helping out. . . . I am
also interested in the truth, "just the facts mam" as Joe Friday used to
Acknowledged or not, valuable
or not, my brother (joint-heir) and I have decided to keep it on the wall
and enjoy it. But again I must thank you for your help. You keep better
records than I do. I don't have email records from '99 but you remembered
me. Know I know why, it has been up on your site all this time.
Please keep it up there for
as long as you can. The attached document fills in on some of the speculation
in the text that you have posted with the photo on your site. If I could
request more of your kindness, could it be updated to reflect the facts
as they are known thus far? Again I know that I
am asking an indulgence but you
seem to be very kind. Thank you.
June 23, 1999
Sargent Vetting Committee
The Mark Hotel
25 East 77th Street, Third Fl.
New York, NY 10021
Thank you for taking
the time to examine our painting that has been attributed to John Singer
Sargent. There is much that remains unclear about it at the present. Your
aid in this matter is most appreciated. I have assembled what I can in
an orderly fashion for your scrutiny. Below is all I know regarding the
provenance of the work.
In 1967 my father’s
aunt died. The auction house described her in this manner: “Mrs.
Woll (Celeonor Dugas) was a portrait painter of considerable note, and
painted many important people including Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt,
Herbert Hoover, Samuel Gompers, Samuel Lewisohn, Charles Schwab, and many
others. Her late husband Matthew Woll, was Vice President of United Federation
[Anecdotal evidence attesting to Celeonor Dugas’ associations included
in the large manila envelope. Among the items are letters from Herbert
Hoover and other notables.]
There was an estate
sale resulting from a disputed will. [Attached
as Item 1] This is where my father obtained the painting (and other
items). The original flyer from the estate sale is included.[Attached
as Item 2]
As you can see the
painting was sold as “by an unknown artist”. It was soiled and the signature
was discovered during reconditioning. The person who restored the painting
had an outstanding reputation and handled works for the Metropolitan Museum
including such artists as Renoir. His name was Frank Moratz. There is an
anecdotal story about this that I found out when doing research on the
web about my great aunt’s artwork. From this site:
I was led to contact Sylvia Buratovich. (602) 488-5277 She remembers well
the account of the painting being restored and the attendant discovery
of the signature.[Attached as Item 3]
My father, Graham
C. Dugas Jr., was in touch with Mr. Richard Ormond in the late 80’s early
90’s. In attempting to find out who the sitter is, my father was led to
contact Mr. Ormond. Upon reviewing photographs of the painting, Mr. Ormond
directed my father to the General Manager of Warwick Castle.[Letter
Attached as Item 4] I have included all the research notes about
“Warwick” and related genealogies etc. [Attached as Item 5] Regrettably,
this may have proved to be a dead end. But then again perhaps not,
the research has not been exhaustive. In his response, the Curator of Warwick
Castle returned a nice hand-written letter with photocopies of a painting
by J.S.S. of Lady Warwick and her son (1905).[Attached
as Item 6] There is not that much of a likeness. Additionally, I
would find it hard to believe that someone actually sat twice for
J.S.S. However, he certainly grew quite fond of the painting describing
the sitter as a “lady of some consequence”.
Based on certain
evidences and research detailed in a letter to the General Manager of Warwick
Castle I am now trying to re-trace my father’s efforts to find out who
the sitter may be. Perhaps the most interesting trail to follow at this
time is contained in a remark contained in the letter to Warwick which
reads thus: “I did some research
at the New
York Public Library and learned that the family did dispose of some family
paintings through Knoedler--London--early on this century.” Would
the committee know anything about this? Also referred to is/are “the original
stretchers”. I take to mean the wood frame that the canvas is stretched
upon, correct? In any event, if as my father said “it remains in my [his]
possession”, there is a likelihood that I will come across it as I sort
through my late father’s estate. This will be of great aid to me.
so much for circumstantial matters, I know that ultimately the painting
will have to speak for itself. I am grateful to have the opportunity to
avail myself of your expertise. If there is anything else that you can
think of, please do not hesitate to contact me. Again, I thank you all
for your time and consideration in this matter.
C. Dugas III