Cecilia Beaux, born Philadelphia, PA 1855-died Gloucester, MA 1942
Henry Sturgis Drinker
oil on canvas
48 x 34 5/8 in. (121.9 x 87.8 cm.)
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Bequest of Henry Ward Ranger through the National Academy of Design
Restrictions & Rights
Cecilia Beaux's portrait of Henry Sturgis Drinker is an interesting pairing of artist and sitter. Drinker was Beaux's brother-in-law, a railroad executive who later became president of Lehigh University. In the 1890s, men such as Drinker were at the pinnacle of East Coast society, and their tastes shaped public life for decades. Beaux was a fiercely independent woman who lived well, kept handsome lovers, and had a will of iron. At a time when few women could, she carved out a career for herself as a portraitist, and was thought to rival John Singer Sargent. Drinker's mutton-chop whiskers, linen suit, and casual pose convey immense self-assurance, but his steady, almost wary gaze suggests that he recognized in the artist a personality as strong as his own.
Exhibition Label, Smithsonian American Art Museum, 2006