By Claudia P. Pfeiffer, Elizabeth von Hassell, Alexis L. Boylan
In 1936, on the heels of painting an official presidential portrait of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Ellen Emmet Rand held a solo exhibition. Though she had been a professional portrait artist for over three decades, this show was a departure from the paintings of captains of industry, socialites, artists, and children for which she had become known. The exhibition, Sporting Portraits by Ellen Emmet Rand, N.A., was held at The Sporting Gallery & Bookshop in New York City, and subjects included well-known sporting figures such as Fletcher Harper, Master of the Orange County Hunt (now Orange County Hounds); Dr. Howard Collins, Master of Millbrook Hunt; and Charlotte Noland, founder of the prestigious Foxcroft School and Joint-Master of Middleburg Hunt.
Leading the Field: Ellen Emmet Rand highlights many of the same paintings from Rand’s 1936 show, as well as others, to bring to life the stories, personalities, and relationships behind these works. Rand lived a remarkable life as one of the first successful, professional female artists in the United States. She was a lifelong equestrian, active in American foxhunting circles, and proved to be significant within the context of sporting history and culture during the first half of the 20th century.
Through Rand’s first-person voice as expressed in her diaries, the exhibition and catalog narrative for Leading the Field bring to light new scholarship from Claudia Pfeiffer, the NSLM’s George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Head Curator. The groundwork for NSLM’s exploration of Rand’s sporting portraits was laid in 2016 when Pfeiffer spent time at the University of Connecticut’s Thomas J. Dodd Research Center consulting the Ellen Emmet Rand archive collection. Exploration of Rand’s own writings grants modern audiences an in-depth viewing experience, with greater understanding of Rand’s working process and place in the pantheon of female sporting artists.
The catalog is 112-pages with full-page illustrations; a Foreword by Elizabeth von Hassell, Executive Director at the National Sporting Library & Museum; and introduction by Alexis L. Boylan, Director of Academic Affairs of the UConn Humanities Institute and Associate Professor of the UConn Art and Art History Department and Africana Studies Institute.
Front cover image, detail of:
Ellen Emmet Rand (American, 1875–1941)
The Hound Show at The Riding Club (Last Show at the Riding Club), January 31, 1936
oil on panel, 27 1/2 x 23 1/4 inches
Collection of Rosina Rand