The sitter was Mabel Ganson, born 26 February 1879, scion of a banking dynasty and daughter of non-practising lawyer Charles Ganson and Sara Cook Ganson, who lived on Delaware Avenue in Buffalo. She married in secret Karl Evans against her parents’ wishes, in July 1900. Evans was the son of Buffalo Anchor Line Steamboat Co. magnates, and a direct descendant of Andrew Ellicott first Surveyor-General of the United States (his daughter Letitia married an Evans). They had one child John Evans in January 1902 and about a year later, whilst depressed, she heard that her husband had been shot in a hunting accident and died several days later.
Mabel Ganson then married Edwin Dodge, a Boston architect, in October 1904 and moved to Florence, Italy where in 1911 she was painted by Jacques-Emile Blanche (Paris, Musée du Petit-Palais). But after returning to New York in November 1912, she became involved in the organization of the Armory show and started to write, and hold a salon for intellectuals in her Greenwich Village home. She then met an avant-garde artist, Maurice Sterne and married him in August 1917. But in 1923, after moving to Taos in New Mexico, she married Antonio Luhan, a Pueblo man. She died on 18 April 1962. Mabel Dodge Luhan’s correspondence with Gertrude Stein was published in 1996.
Lois Palken Rudnick, Mabel Dodge Luhan: New Woman New Worlds, University of New Mexico Press, 1984
Intimate Memories: The Autobiography of Mabel Dodge Luhan (ed. Lois Palken Rudnick) 1999
Lois Palken Rudnick, Utopian Vistas: The Mabel Dodge Luhan House and the American Counterculture, University of New Mexico Press, 2001
Lois Palken Rudnick & Malin Wilson-Powell (eds.), Mabel Dodge Luhan and Company: American Moderns and the West. Museum of New Mexico Press, 2016.
Painted in 1904.
A letter in the artist’s papers for 1904, dated May 4, from 396 Delaware Avenue, Buffalo, New York reads:
Your beautiful portrait of Mrs. Karl Evans, arrived at my house, yesterday – safely and in good order! It is much admired by those who have already seen it – as a work of art and a speaking likeness, and will be a “joy forever” to us all who love the original. Please accept my thanks – for my share in it – and believe me, ever your debtor, yours sincerely,
Nancy S. Ganson.’
Nancy Ganson was her paternal grandmother and the handwriting of the letter looks like that of an older person with a shaking hand.
This picture was photographed by the talented amateur photographer Harriet V. S. Thorne (1843-1926), a member of the New York Camera Club, many of whose photographs were donated to the Connecticut Historical Society’s Museum and Library by The Rosalie Thorne McKenna Foundation (Acquisition: 2011.344.138).