Mary Elizabeth (Sears) Kellogg

Artist

Polly (Ethel) Thayer (1904–2006)

Date

1945

Medium

Oil on canvas

Inscription

Inscribed lower right: Polly Thayer ’45

Credit Line

Athenaeum purchase, 2016 (UR374)

Object Number

UR374

Long Afternoon

Artist

Polly (Ethel) Thayer (1904–2006)

Date

about 1957

Medium

Oil on canvas

Dimensions

15 x 24 in. (38.1 x 61 cm)

Credit Line

Gift of Rachel Brown in memory of William Slater Brown, 2010

Object Number

UR330

Shopping for Furs

Artist

Polly (Ethel) Thayer (1904–2006)

Date

about 1943

Medium

Oil on canvas

Dimensions

24 1/4 x 20 1/8 in. (61.6 x 51.1 cm) Frame: 30 3/4 x 26 3/4 in. (78.1 x 67.9 cm)

Description
With several recent acquisitions of the artist’s work, the Athenæum’s collection now contains six paintings by Boston artist Polly Thayer. Five of these are portraits (including a self-portrait and a portrait of Thayer’s husband, Donald Starr) and one is a small landscape. As the first genre painting by Thayer to enter the collection, Shopping for Furs adds unexpected depth to the institution’s holdings of her work. Undoubtedly posed by a carefully selected model, the painting is a brilliant study in the numbing exhaustion brought on by the mundane, ultimately meaningless activity of shopping for luxury goods.
Credit Line

Athenæum purchase, 2010

Object Number

UR327

Donald Starr

Artist

Polly (Ethel) Thayer (1904–2006)

Date

1935

Medium

Oil on canvas

Dimensions

50 1/4 x 35 1/4 in. (127.6 x 89.5 cm)

Description
Donald Starr (1901–1992) was an accomplished yachtsman who, when Polly Thayer met him in 1933, was in the process of circumnavigating the globe. Thayer joined him and the two were soon married. Thayer painted this portrait the following year, just as Starr was beginning his career as a lawyer.
Credit Line

Gift of Polly Thayer Starr, 1995

Object Number

UR279

Self-Portrait

Artist

Polly (Ethel) Thayer (1904–2006)

Date

1943

Medium

Oil on canvas

Dimensions

40 1/4 x 35 1/4 in. (102.2 x 89.5 cm)

Credit Line

Gift of Polly Thayer Starr, 1995

Object Number

UR277

Dr. Bernard Bandler

Artist

Polly (Ethel) Thayer (1904–2006)

Date

about 1928

Medium

Oil on canvas

Dimensions

25 x 21 in. (63.5 x 53.3 cm)

Credit Line

Gift of Polly Thayer Starr, 1995

Object Number

UR278

Mark Anthony DeWolfe Howe

Artist

Polly (Ethel) Thayer (1904–2006)

Date

n.d.

Medium

Oil on canvas

Dimensions

26 x 20 in. (66 x 50.8 cm)

Description
Polly Thayer painted this portrait of her friend, writer and historian Mark Antony DeWolfe Howe (1864–1960), at the Howe family’s summer cottage in Bristol, Rhode Island, in 1933. (That year Howe became the Director of the Boston Athenæum.) Thayer later remembered that, to relieve the boredom during the sittings, the subject’s son Mark Howe read aloud from Henry James’s The American Scene. The experience, Thayer wrote, “was one of the happiest of my life.”
Credit Line

Gift of Reginald Allen, 1982

Object Number

UR175