Elizabeth Vaughan Okie

Artist

William McGregor Paxton (1869–1941)

Date

1894

Medium

Oil on canvas

Dimensions

32 x 21 1/8 in. (81.3 x 53.7 cm)

Description
William McGregor Paxton and Elizabeth Vaughan Okie (1877–1971) met when they were students at the Cowles Art School in Boston. Thinking they would bond, their mutual teacher, Joseph R. DeCamp (1858–1923), introduced them. According to family lore, it was love at first sight. Paxton and Okie were engaged in 1896 and married three years later. Over the next several decades, they both became successful artists, William best known as an accomplished portrait painter and Elizabeth as a painter of still-lifes and interiors. Elizabeth was also one of her husband’s favorite models and appears in a number of his masterworks. The Athenæum’s portrait is the earliest image of her by William Paxton and may have been painted specifically for her. With its vibrant colors and loose handling of paint, it is a good example of the rather free, Impressionist style in which Paxton worked in his early years, before he turned to a more hard-edged, linear style. Most of Paxton’s early paintings were destroyed in a studio fire in the first decade of the twentieth century, making this a rare survivor from that period of his professional life.
Credit Line

Athenæum Bicentennial purchase, 2007

Object Number

UR317

Frank Waterman Stearns

Artist

William McGregor Paxton (1869–1941)

Date

1936

Medium

Oil on canvas

Dimensions

36 x 30 in. (91.4 x 76.2 cm)

Description

Frank Stearns (1856–1939) was a son of Richard Hall Stearns, founder in 1847 of the R. H. Stearns Company, a department store and dry-goods concern in Boston, and Louisa Maria (Waterman) Stearns. After graduating from Amherst College in 1878, Frank Stearns worked for his father’s company: he became a partner in the firm in 1881 and chairman of its board in 1919. He married in 1880 to Emily Williston Clark, with whom he had three children. He was a friend and long-time political supporter of his fellow Amherst graduate Calvin Coolidge, and after Coolidge’s election to the United States presidency in 1923, became one of his closest advisors. Stearns died in Boston.

This portrait, which retains its original frame, appears to have been commissioned from Paxton by the R. H. Stearns Company on the occasion of the sitter’s eightieth birthday. A second, but not identical, portrait of Stearns by Paxton is in the collection of the New England Historic Genealogical Society, Boston

Credit Line

Gift of A. Everette James, in honor of Laurence L. Ribbins, M. D., 1985

Object Number

UR204