BROWN, Mrs Gardner (Mary Russell)

Full-length standing before a garden, beside a pedestal, dressed in velvet with a full-length fur-edged robe over her purple dress, with a double string of pearls one row hanging below her waist.

Present Whereabouts Unknown.

M. KNOEDLER & CO., 556-558, Fifth Avenue, New York, March 31 – April 12, 1913, No. 13.

American Art News, New York, Vol. 10, No. 25, March 30, 1912, p. 3
New York Herald, April 2, 1913
American Art News, April 5, 1913
Brooklyn Eagle, April 6, 1913
Vogue, Vol. 41, Issue 9, May 1, 1913, p. 118


American Art News, New York, March 30, 1912, reported that Muller-Ury had recently completed ‘…a standing full-length portrait of Mrs. Gardner Brown’ – and when exhibited American Art News, April 5, 1913, described it as ‘graceful and well-arranged.’ The Brooklyn Eagle, same date, wrote that ‘…another brunette beauty, Mrs. Gardner Brown, in purple-hued dress, over the dress a black wrap, thrown back in easy folds, and with furs at the neck…painted with partly cloudy sky for background, which admirably enhances the color values.’

In their article in Vogue, Vol. 41, Issue 9, May 1, 1913, p. 118, ‘Art and Conscience’, there is some sharp (and factually inaccurate) criticism of the artist which specifically mentions this portrait:

‘Portraits by A Muller-Ury, who rarely holds an exhibition without a new portrait of the Kaiser, were recently shown at the Knoedler gallery. Of all the fashionable portrait painters in New York Muller-Ury is the most conscientious. Of course, the conscientious man need not always be a bore, but the man who is conscientious about everything usually arouses either sympathy or disgust. He is necessarily a slave to facts. He may be a wise man, but he is a wise man deluded, for he is trying to accomplish the impossible. Mr. Muller-Ury is so anxious to comprise everything, so finicky about the reproduction of every detail, that he invariably misses the most important thing of all, the ensemble of these details, the big aspect. His pictures are labored and without spontaneity. They are painstaking reports which include so many minor facts that the big facts must be lost in the maze of diverting interests the minor ones create. One wonders, for example, in regard to the “Portrait of Miss Gardner Brown,” whether the rope of pearls, the brocaded coat, or the lavender gown most interested the painter. Other portraits in the group were of the Hon. George Rives, Mr. H. O. Havemeyer, Mr. H. J. Cole, Misses Kohler, French, Potter, Whitman, Mrs. Henschel, Master Frits Havemeyer, and Miss and Master Cutler.’

Gardner Willard Brown was born on 24 March 1877 in New York (died 25 November 1940) and became a stock broker, and was married to Mary Eliza Russell of Winchester, Frederick County, Virginia (born 18 November 1876, died 20 October 1938).  They lived at 375 Park Avenue in 1920s. They had a debutante daughter called Katharine Vernon Brown according to the New York Evening Post, Friday 22 January 1926. She was born 19 June 1907, and married George Allen Fuller (1897-1931) in March 1928, and after his death she married George Mallory Pynchon Jr. in 1934 (he was an amateur aviator who killed himself with a shotgun on 14 January 1940). Their daughter became Katherine B. Pynchon and they had a daughter called June Pynchon Binz (married in 1959).

The sitter was New York, Southampton and Newport based, but the photograph in the artist’s papers, says on the verso ‘Harris & Ewing, F Street, Washington D.C.’ 

I am grateful to Mrs. June Binz for confirming the identity of the sitter from a photograph in December 2010.