With thanks to Mary Barlow, who photographed this on her early morning walk.
In 1899, millionaire Henry Clay Pierce of St. Louis, Missouri, who had made a fortune in oil and real estate, cut a deal with Swedish artist Anders Zorn to produce portraits of his late wife, himself and his daughter for $12,000. Zorn, who commanded as much as $8,000 for a single portrait, did a portrait of the late Mrs. Pierce from a photograph, persuaded a reluctant Mr. Pierce to sit still, and finished with a painting of their daughter Pearl, Mrs. Eben Richards. Mr. Pierce did not like the portraits, and he especially did not like Anders Zorn. He refused to pay him.
He said Zorn appeared in a “maudlin condition” and used “insulting language” in the presence of Mrs. Richards, and ultimately had to be asked to leave. He added that Mr. Zorn had painted him “too big.”
To the St. Louis millionaire’s surprise, the painter from far away Sweden sued him for the $12,000, plus 10% interest and court costs. In 1901, Pierce settled. He said he could have won in court, but did not wish to embarrass his family. And he feared the artist would use the portraits for “improper purposes” if they remained in his possession. Mr. Pierce, however, would do the right thing and “consign them to the flames” as soon as he took possession.
Anders Zorn said of the portrait of Pierce’s daughter that it was “an unusually beautiful work of art, although one saw something chilling in her glance.” And Mr. Pierce did not burn the paintings. In what might be taken for a change of heart, the portrait of Mrs. Richards remained in the family for more than 100 years. And when last put up for sale, at Sotheby’s in 2005, it was estimated that the $4,000 painting, paid for with reluctance, would bring more than $500,000.
From a 1957 western paperback, cover art by George Gross (1909-2003); there’s a nice bio of the artist here.
“O-koto-san receives a letter from her fiance at the war,” a postcard published before 1913 in Japan. You can see the entire set here. I’m not sure which war her fiance is writing home from; the Russo-Japanese War took place in 1905-06, but troops from Japan had been involved in China and Korea for years before, and years after.