Cook refers to this painting in two letters from NYC, 19 April and 17 May 1860. This was apparently a posthumous portrait done from photographs belonging to Col/Gen Graham (Cook refers to him by both ranks at different times), President of Metropolitan Insurance Company and an art collector who took several hours to walk a clearly impressed Cook through his collection. Cook observes that painting from photos is more difficult than working with a sitter.
In a letter from NYC in May, 1860, Cook writes: "I have varnished Madame D'uresmond's [sic] Portrait. Mr. Rose helped me hang it up, in a good light. It is at once recognized." Nothing further is known of the sitter or the portrait, though it is possible she was associated with the woman's movement, if for no other reason than "Mr. Rose" is presumably William E. Rose, husband of Ernestine, whose portraits apparently were done around this time, with Ernestine's also varnished.
Described as a miniature of a son of Mrs. Morris of Clinton Place, NYC, in a Cook letter of 17 May 1860. Could this be Mrs. R.V. Morris, mentioned as owner of Portrait of a Lady in the record of exhibits of the National Academy of Art & Design, 1843, cat #65?
b. 21 Apr 1835 in Schodack, NY (Rensselaer County) - d. 31 Aug 1926; son of Henry Van Deusen and Jane Clark Rorabeck; moved with family to Saratoga County, NY at the age of two and was clerking in a Glens Falls, NY dry goods store by the age of 14; at 16 went to Saratoga Springs to work in JH Westcott's dry goods business, became a partner at 21, and assumed sole proprietorship upon Westcott's death c. 1860; over the next 20 years developed the business into the largest dry goods store in Saratoga Springs, an ad for which is reproduced below; in 1869 opened a grocery store with brother Simeon (1830-1891); changed careers in 1879 and for the next 30 years or more was a successful life insurance agent and real estate developer, including for a while owner of the popular Saratoga Vichy Spring, which still operates today; married first wife, Martha J. Billings, in 1856, with whom he had two sons; Martha died in 1898 and in 1907 Henry took a second wife, Mrs. Josephine Williams. An interesting aside....in 1862 Henry submitted a doctor's note to Saratoga Springs officials saying that Van Deusen's right thumb had been cut off 10 years before making him unable to serve in the Union Army during the Civil War. The oval portrait is 35" x 30" and was sold by Coyles Auction Gallery of Massachusetts as part of a pair with Martha for $978 in June 2017. A higher price might have been realized were it not for some condition issues to both the frame and the painting, which at a minimum needs to be restretched.
b. 8 May 1836 - d. 30 May 1898 in Saratoga Springs, NY; buried Green Ridge Cemetery, Saratoga Springs; daughter of Reuben Billings and Ann Marshall; married Henry Van Deusen 26 Feb 1856, with whom she had two sons, Henry (Harry) Billings Van Deusen (b. 1858) and Robert Elihu Van Deusen (b. 1863). The oval portrait is 35" x 30" and was sold by Coyles Auction Gallery of Massachusetts as part of a pair with Henry for $978 in June 2017. A higher price might have been realized were it not for some condition issues to both the frame and the painting, which at a minimum needs to be restretched.
Sold at auction by William A. Smith, Incs. in Orfordville, NH for $150 in August 1982. Purchased by a new owner in 2014 for $300.
b. 1805 at New York, NY - d. 16 Oct 1863 at Saratoga Springs, NY; buried Greenridge Cemetery, Saratoga Springs; son of Francis Wayland, Sr. and Sarah Moore, both 1793 English immigrants, who settled in Saratoga Springs in 1821; on 3 Oct 1861 married Mary Burr, who was widowed twice before and who was the daughter of Samuel Young, former Secretary of State of New York and 1824 Bucktails candidate for New York Governor (defeated by DeWitt Clinton); graduated from Philips Academy in Andover, MA in 1823 and from Union College (Phi Beta Kappa) in 1827; 1828-1831 tutored at Brown University, where brother, Francis, Jr., was president; first professor of rhetoric at Hamilton College 1831-1834; pastor First Baptist Church of Salem, MA 1834-1843, rector St. John's Episcopal Church, Canandaigua, NY (Ontario County) 1844-1848, rector St. James Episcopal Church of Roxbury, MA 1848-1858, and ministered in the Saratoga Springs area 1858-1863, perhaps at Bethesda Episcopal Church or Christ Episcopal Church in Ballston Spa; died in Saratoga Springs in 1863. Although suffering from lost paint and other condition issues, the 56.5" x 44.5" three-quarter length portrait is masterfully crafted and shows a distinguished and contemplative gentleman. The back of the painting in inscribed "Painted by Nelson Cook / Saratoga Springs / 1863." A letter from Rev. Wayland's step son-in-law, John Whetten Ehninger, a very successful genre and portrait painter and illustrator in his own right, attests to the accuracy of Cook's rendering. In a March 19, 1887 story announcing Mrs. Wayland's bequeath of the portrait to Hamilton College upon her death two months prior, the Rome [NY] Citizen Newspaper stated:
The portrait was painted twenty-five years ago, when Prof. [sic] Cook was a much younger
man than at present, but it gives us pleasure to state that the lapse of years has not
disabled him from performing artistic work in his line. Although nearly 80 years old, he
continues to make beautiful likenesses, as can be attested by very many who will read this
article. He is one of the youngest "old men" whom we have the pleasure of knowing.
[And now, the rest of the story...On August 8, 1855 the then-called New York Daily Times ran an article about Charley Burr of Albany, who was the long disowned only son of a very wealthy man. The Times stated: "The son was of a strange cast of mind. Some cause had shaken his intellect, and made him at times 'put strange antics on' and yet those who knew him best, and especially those who imagined the cause, never doubted his sanity." Yet, because of this odd behavior, Charley's father refused to provide any shelter or any other means of support, and treated his son with humiliating disdain, which only made matters worse for the boy. Charley became an outcast and barely survived by begging and selling books. According to the article, "He was recognized only as a repulsive mendicant in the streets." Eventually the father died in November 1844 and no will could be found. The court declared Charley legally insane and made him the sole heir of his father's $430,000 fortune. A committee was appointed to oversee Charley's affairs on his behalf and money was provided to Charley for shelter, furnishings, food, and the like. The decree of insanity said Charley could in no way dispose of his property. In 1847 Charley requested and received a modification to the decree, making him "absolute and unrestrained owner of his immense estate." No one imagined that Charley would ever marry, but in May 1855 he took a wife and granted her half of his wealth. And who was this woman? Mary Young Beach, who, following Charley Burr's death six years hence, would take Rev. John Wayland as her third husband.]
Noted by Smithsonian Institution Research Information System.
This oval portrait, 16x13, was found at an estate sale behind a print which had been cut to fit the frame. Written on the reverse is "Painted by Nelson Cook. Saratoga Springs, 1865"; assuming it is Cook's, the signature by this time has become less flowing, more stiff. Stylistically the portrait, more "primitive" in appearance than we see in the 1840s-50s, recalls the Nelson Cook of an earlier day; this may be explained by the fact that the portrait was apparently painted directly onto a photo of the subject. Cook was working from photos by this time [see Sister of Colonel/General Graham, 1860], and perhaps this was intended as a simple study, a preliminary work, or even something "experimental." Nevertheless, we see some elements typical of Cook throughout much of his career: eg, a deep red seat for the subject, "tubular" forearm and fingers. Purchased at auction in 2006 for $102, the portrait is "home" in Saratoga as of 2007.
This is an absolutely wonderful portrait of an unknown sitter. The painting was beautifully rendered by Cook, who captured the youthful innocence of the boy just at the end of the American Civil war. Although the portrait lacks any indication of the artist placing his sitter in a red chair, Cook has cleverly used a similar motif by surrounding the boy with a picturesque, red-hued sunset in the midst of billowing clouds. While this sort of colorful background was used by the artist in other portraits [see Sarah Willard Elizabeth Fowler (1845), Unidentified Woman in Blue Gown (1857), and Unidentified Woman (1863), this particular application is unique in bringing an almost Impressionistic quality to Cook's work. It was perhaps this unique artistic treatment coupled with the sitter's youth that resulted in a $2,813 auction price, including a 25% buyer's premium, at Alex Cooper Auctions in Towson, MD on October 7, 2017. Not only was this the highest sales price for a Nelson Cook painting since 2013, it was one of the very few art works on that particular day which exceeded its pre-auction estimate ($700 - $1,000) by a wide margin - not even works by Rembrandt, Pissaro, Matisse, Monet, Miro, and Warhol achieved this feat, many of which were withdrawn from sale for falling well short of their reserve prices. The framed, oil-on-canvas portrait is 34 1/4" X 27" and is signed on verso, "Painted by Nelson Cook, Saratoga Springs, 1865." According to the Alex Cooper condition report, the painting has "craquelure, small scratches to the left of head, surface grime, and losses to gilt in frame in corners." On June 23, 2018 this same portrait was sold again by Copake Auction, Inc. in Copake, NY. Unfortunately, the previous buyer in October 2017 resold the painting without its original/period frame, as the June 2018 auction price dropped significantly to $390, including a 20% buyer's premium. Apparently, the seller had little regard for the artistic/historical value of keeping the frame with the portrait.)
b. 3 Nov 1792, Saratoga Springs, NY - d. 4 Nov 1869, Saratoga Springs, NY; buried Greenridge Cemetery, Saratoga Springs; fourth child of Doanda Risley and Gideon Putnam, who was a founder of Saratoga Springs and in 1803 built the city's first hotel, eventually named Union Hall, to attract visitors to the many freshwater natural springs in the area; married Elizabeth Haight Peck in 1823; ran Union Hall in 1812 immediately following his father's accidental construction-site death, and again from 1839-1849 with brother, Washington; then served as an insurance agent for several companies and as director and president of the Commercial National Bank; also held several public offices, including town clerk, assessor, supervisor and water commissioner; one of several founders in 1830 of Saratoga Springs' Bethesda Episcopal Church, to which he devoted much of his time for the next 40 years, including vestryman and senior warden; the artist's brother, Ransom Cook, served as one of Putnam's pallbearers at his November 1869 funeral. Cook has abandoned his trademark red chair for the sitter and instead has inserted a large red drapery as a backdrop. The 32 3/4" X 26 1/2" portrait is signed on the crest rail "N. Cook Painter. 1867" and a modern notation on the back stretcher identifies the sitter and artist; the painting has had minor touch up work and is in "very good" condition as assessed by James D. Julia, Inc. of Fairfield, ME, which unsuccessfully tried to auction the portrait in August 2014 when their $4,000 reserve price was unmet.
b. 20 Jul 1807, Saratoga Springs, NY - d. 18 Dec 1888, Saratoga Springs, NY; buried Greenridge Cemetery, Saratoga Springs; daughter of George Peck and Elizabeth Ellis Peck and granddaughter of Robert Ellis, one of the very early settlers in Saratoga County and extensive land owner, including the well-known Geyser Spring; in 1823 married Rockwell Putnam with whom she had two children (George Rockwell and Elizabeth); in 1886 donated funds to Bethesda Episcopal Church in Saratoga Springs for the construction of a Norman Romanesque tower with Tiffany windows in her deceased husband's memory. Cook has placed Mrs. Putnam in a red dress and shawl as a compliment to the prominent red drapery in her husband's companion portrait. The 32" X 26" portrait is signed on the crest rail "Painted by N. Cook" and a modern note on the back stretcher mentions the sitter and artist; the painting has craquelure and has had minor touch up work and is in "very good" condition according to James D. Julia, Inc. of Fairfield, ME, which withdrew the painting from auction in August 2014 when their $3,000 reserve price was not attained.
A superb portrait of an unknown man with captivating eyes. At least that's why the current owner says he purchased the 34" x 27" painting for $3,000 in 2017 from Laster's Fine Art and Antiques in Winston-Salem, NC. As the buyer put it, "...it was the eyes that made me have to have it. I have never seen such eyes in a portrait." If the eyes weren't enough, this finely-rendered painting has all the hallmarks and then some of a mid-career Nelson Cook portrait. In addition to placing the sitter in a red seat, Cook signed, located, and dated the portrait on reverse: "Painted by Nelson Cook, Saratoga Springs, N.Y. 1867." But just to be sure, the artist also signed the painting on the front in the wooden curve of the upholstered chair: "Painted by N. Cook." Although Cook is known to have signed two other portraits on the front (Susan Bellow Sowles and Portrait of a Girl), this is the only one of over 150 Cook portraits known to exist where the artist signed his work in two separate locations. Another unique feature of this portrait is the liner, which has a stencil reading, "Prepared by Charles Roberson, 99, Long Acre, London." Charles Roberson (1799-1876) was a leading art supplies dealer in London. In addition to selling high-quality canvases and liners, he also sold drawing paper, wood panels, copper plates, colors, oils, brushes, pencils, and varnishes. And many of his customers are very well-known artists, including Turner, Whistler, and Sargent. Roberson started his business in 1810 and is still in business today. Although Cook was known for using lower grade supplies, he appears to have made an exception in this case, as imports of canvas from England apparently were rare in this part of the 19th century. Up until the foregoing was learned in 2020, about the only thing the caretakers of this site knew about the portrait was mention of it in an October 1969 letter of inquiry to the Historical Society of Saratoga Springs from Winston-Salem, NC. It would appear the portrait was in that part of the country for at least over 50 years before finding a new home in Utah.
Buried in Church of the Messiah Cemetery, Woods Hole, MA; Cook was commissioned to paint this portrait in August-September 1868, in anticipation or celebration of Fisher's ordination as deacon and/or Priest of the Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Albany; it is likely that Fisher made contact with Cook (through Bethesda Episcopal Church, where Cook had been baptized and confirmed a decade before?) during his posting as Resident Missionary in the Saratoga/Schuylerville area in the 1860s, aided by a grant from the diocesan Board of Missions; in March, 1871 Father Fisher was elected rector of the Church of St. John The Evangelist (Episcopal), Stockport, Columbia County, NY (where he is known to have funded a library of theological works), and later, for his final years, at Church of the Messiah in Woods Hole (where the parish house is named for him). The portrait, a bust perhaps painted from a photograph, shows Father Fisher in clerical collar seated in a chair with a column behind him, in right front profile; printed in the front mid-lower left is "Painted by Nelson Cook 1868"; a "paid" signed receipt for $100 from Cook to Fisher is in the possession of the priest's descendents. With an "empty olive background and black cassock occupying much of the canvas," the portrait, in fair condition, is said to have "a dark sense to it." [See Rev. James Bradford]
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