April 6, 2020
Among the many portraits reproduced in the vast collection of the Frick Art Reference Library's Photoarchive is a likeness by the American artists William Morris Hunt (1824–1924) and Rose Lamb (1843–1927) of a vivacious woman in a feathered hat identified as Miss Jane F. Tuckerman. On December 4, 1996, this painting was put up for auction at Christie’s in New York by an unnamed estate; however, it was identified during the sale as a "Portrait of Emily Tuckerman by William Morris Hunt." Both Emily Lamb Tuckerman (1858–1943) and Jane Francis Tuckerman (1852–1947) were daughters of Gustavus Tuckerman, a founder of the Boston merchant firm Tuckerman, Townsend and Company. Emily became a senior partner in her father’s business, and Jane was one of the founders of the Friendly Aid Society and the New York County chapter of the Red Cross.
One of the most important early activities of the Frick Art Reference Library was undertaking field trips to photograph American paintings in private collections and obtain unpublished information about them from the owners. The first photograph expedition took place in Virginia in the spring of 1922 and resulted in 557 photographs. By 1967, Library staff and photographers had traveled to twenty states, the District of Columbia, and Bermuda and photographed approximately 35,000 works of art in both private and public collections. These photographs, with accompanying documentation, comprise one of the most treasured resources available at the Library, offering rare reproductions of unpublished paintings as well as rich insight into collecting practices in the United States.
On February 15, 1930, Frick Art Reference Librarian Anna Barretto along with photographer Ira W. Martin visited the New York City home of Jane and her sister Emily to photograph their collection of family portraits. One of the paintings photographed that day was the portrait of Jane F. Tuckerman mentioned above, correctly identified by the sitter herself. In the Photoarchive's records are notes from Anna's conversation with Jane regarding the portrait, which offers additional information about the authorship of the work. Jane related that the painting had been begun by her aunt, Rose Lamb, a pupil of the painter William Morris Hunt, but completed by Hunt. Interestingly, in her 1991 monograph on the artist, scholar Sally Webster identified Jane as the model for two other paintings by Hunt: The Gainsborough Hat (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 35.1979) and The Amazon (Akron Art Museum, 1955.32). Due to the Library’s photographic campaign, the true identity of the sitter in the portrait illustrated above as well as the artistic contribution of Rose Lamb are part of the art-historical record.
William Morris Hunt (1824–1879) and Rose Lamb (1843–1927), Miss Jane F. Tuckerman, ca. 1870s. Oil on canvas, 21 x 17 in. Location unknown. Courtesy of The Frick Collection/Frick Art Reference Library
Hunt, The Gainsborough Hat, ca. 1876. Oil on canvas, 22 x 18 1/8 in. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Courtesy of The Frick Collection/Frick Art Reference Library