CARSCALLEN, Mrs Albert E. D. (Harriet Louise Seymour)

Present Whereabouts Unknown.

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She was born in Illinois on October 13, 1863, and by 1880 the 17-year-old Harriet Seymour lived with her parents, six siblings and two servants at 5624 N. Newark Ave., Norwood Park, Chicago. The Noble-Seymour-Crippen House, built in 1833, is now a Chicago landmark.

Harriet was married on June 3, 1903 in Mesa, Maricipa, Arizona aged 40 to Albert E.D. Carscallen. They lived in Phoenix, Arizona, where he died suddenly on December 30, 1903. After Albert’s death, at some point Harriet returned to Chicago to live. Mrs. Carscallen was a friend of the architect Daniel Burnham and in May 1912 he recorded in his diary meeting her in Italy. Following the 1919 death of her aunt, Catharine Seymour, Harriet lived with her uncle William Liston Brown in Pasadena, California. Brown, a wealthy financier, died in 1929 leaving most of his estate to his niece, much to the chagrin of his other relatives. They contested the will, according to The Chicago Tribune, December 11, 1934, won the case, but lost on appeal. She died on February 29, 1952.

Painted in Pasadena, California, in 1923 or 1924, presumably at 1289 S. El Molino Avenue, along with a portrait of William Liston Brown ‘Uncle Billy’. The sitter’s mother, Mrs. Louise A. Seymour, was painted slightly later, probably after the artist’s San Marino studio was ready for occupation in 1925. Neither Mr. Brown or Mrs. Seymour is listed in the 1930 Pasadena Census as both were dead by that date and Harriet Carscallen is named as head of the household.

A very long letter from the sitter, in the artist’s papers, dated July 27, 1924, includes the following extract:

‘…There is scarcely a day that he [Uncle Billy] doesn’t say something about the portrait you did of me and of his appreciation of your kindness and beautiful work.

One of my friends seeing the portraits for the first time, who was here a few days, exclaimed “Oh Harriet you did not tell me it was a Gainsborough in his best and happiest style.” Naturally I do not talk about it, but it is a real pleasure to have these portraits in our home. I think of Uncle Billy’s as Uncle Billy, but of mine in quite an impersonal way as if it was not I but a picture of grace, color composition & line and yet me, do you understand what I mean? – and so I get the best the artist has portrayed. I say “the best” but it is all “best” – thank you dear friend for this great gift in which you have put so much of yourself in these two canvases.

Everyone likes the moment you express in Uncle Billy’s pose…’

It is not of passing interest that when Muller-Ury sold his San Marino studio in January 1947, only six months before his death, he sold it to John Burnham (1878-1963). John (the son of the Chicago architect Daniel Burnham [1846-1912] whom Harriet Seymour had met in Rome), had married Catharine Wheeler (1883-1977), daughter of Harriet’s sister Martha Seymour Wheeler (somewhat confusingly they had a daughter called Catharine [later Mrs Michael Meehl; 1907-2003] and a son John Burnham Jr [1912-1963]).