As we are now in Women’s History Month, and today is International Women’s Day, we wanted to acknowledge our debt of gratitude to just some of the women who made Caramoor what it is today.
In this blog post, we will learn about three female figures that breathed life into Caramoor, and the lasting influence of each of their contributions.
Anne Bigelow Stern
We start with an early guiding light of Caramoor: Anne Bigelow Stern. After her mother’s death in 1968, the responsibility of Caramoor and its future success fell on Anne’s shoulders. Anne organized the cataloging of objects in the Rosen House, orchestrated the transfer of pieces from the family townhouse on West 54th Street to Katonah, planned the New Wing extension to incorporate rooms from the townhouse, and wrote the first guide to the collection. In addition to being the first woman to join the Board of the Musicians Foundation in New York City, she also served as an influential force for the Caramoor Board of Directors for over 20 years. It is thanks in great part to Anne’s knowledge, enterprising spirit, and strong leadership that Walter’s vision and Lucie’s dream of Caramoor as a public space for art and music were realized. Thank you, Anne.
On your next visit to Caramoor, take a closer look at the bust of young Walter Rosen in the cloisters. This gem is one of a variety of works in the collection by the American sculptor Malvina Hoffman (1885-1966) most widely known for her portrait sculpture, including her works for the “Hall of Man” commissioned by the Field Museum in Chicago in 1930. Having studied sculpture under Gutzon Borglum and Auguste Rodin, Hoffman created marble and bronze works across Europe and the USA. Other local examples of her works can be found at the New York Historical Society, where you can see busts of prominent men and women in artistic and business circles, like Anne Morgan and Walter T. Rosen. After young Walter died in 1944, the Rosens reached out to their dear friend Malvina, entrusting her with sculpting his portrait and a memorial monument in the family plot at Saint Matthew’s cemetery. Based on recent photos from family and friends, Hoffman accurately captured in her rugged lines and textures not only the physique of young Walter, but also his spirit. Mr. Rosen later wrote to Malvina thanking her, “I feel that what you have already accomplished is most gratifying” and “the eyes are now just as I remember them.”
Amanda Brewster Sewell
As we continue researching objects in our collection, we are amazed at the growing number of female artists Lucie knew during her lifetime. When she was 11 years old, Lucie sat for a portrait painted by Amanda Brewster Sewell (1859-1926), who also made a grand portrait of Lucie’s mother Mrs. Flora Bigelow Dodge. Brewster Sewell studied formally at the National Academy of Design in New York City, as well as at the Art Students League under William Merritt Chase and William Sartain. She continued her art education in Paris, where she exhibited her portraits in the Salon of 1886, 1887, and 1888. Both Mary Cassatt and Brewster Sewell were commissioned to paint murals for the Women’s Building at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. Brewster Sewell won a bronze medal for her work at the Fair. In 1901, she was the first woman to receive the Thomas B. Clark prize from the National Academy of Design—the same year she painted Flora and Lucie. Additionally, she was a founding member of the Women’s Art Club, now the National Association of Women’s Artists. In a 1962 letter to the Metropolitan Museum of Art Director James Rorimer, Lucie described the portrait styles of Amanda Brewster Sewell: “they seem to me uncommonly poignant portraits by an artist searching for the spirit behind the beautifully painted flesh. She was not trying to prove anything or any theory. She was thinking deeply about her subjects, wanting to know all she could about them, working with a sure technique.”
If you would like to learn more about the history of Caramoor, we suggest you take a 45-minute tour of the Rosen House! Click here for more information and how to book a tour.
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