Ulysses Simpson Grant (born Hiram Ulysses Grant on April 27, 1822 ) was an American politician, soldier, international statesman, and author, who served as the 18th President of the United States of America from 1869 to 1877. During the American Civil War Grant led the Union Army as its commanding general to victory over the Confederate States with the supervision of President Abraham Lincoln. He died on July 23, 1885. He was buried in a mausoleum at Riverside Drive, New York. A portrait of Grant by George P. A. Healy dated 1868 is in the Chicago Historical Society.
Town Topics, in the otherwise unpleasant and unreliable review of the exhibition at Durand-Ruel Galleries in which this version was displayed, in the issue dated March 18, 1897, states that the portrait was labelled ‘4.45 A.M. April 2, 1865’ and dated 1897.
Mrs. Ida Grant wrote to Muller Ury from her home on East 62nd Street on April 3, 1897 to say that because she had been absent from the city, she and her daughter had been ‘…denied the pleasure of seeing your Portraits and Paintings at the time we were asked to view them. However, we did see your Portrait of General Grant” and thought it excellent.’ (artist’s papers).
Jefferson Seligman was a partner in the New York bank of J. & W. Seligman. A copy of a letter from the Corcoran Gallery of Art (same source) records the acceptance of his offer of the portrait:
I have much pleasure in acknowledging receipt of your esteemed favor of the 28th ult., addressed to the Trustees of this Gallery, expressing your desire to present to it the oil painting of General Grant, executed by Mr. A. Müller-Ury, and beg to say that any time for the transfer that may be most convenient for you and for Senator Depew will be agreeable to members of our board.
Permit me to add,
in conveying the thanks of my colleagues, that the pleasure of possessing a
portrait of the great General by so distinguished an artist as Mr. Müller-Ury
is heightened by the gratifying evidence afforded by your action that the Art
Gallery at the National Capital is rapidly being regarded by public spirited
citizens of other localities as the most appropriate repository for great works
of Art, and especially for those of the character in which all the American
people have a common pride and interest.
With great respect,
Your obedient servant, S. H. Kauffmann
President Board of Trustees.’
A second letter from the Clerk of the Gallery, C. Powell Minneigerode, dated March 12, 1900 told Jefferson Seligman that it was ‘received Saturday in good condition, and will very shortly be hung in our Portrait Gallery.’ The gift of the portrait to the Corcoran Gallery of Art, was made by Chauncey Depew on Seligman’s behalf, on Friday, May 4, 1900 at 8.30 p.m. His speech was paraphrased in the Washington Star, May 5, 1900, under the headline ‘A Notable Event.’
I am grateful to Sara Berg of the Corcoran Study Collection at the George Washington University for providing me with information about the transfer of the portrait from the Corcoran Collection.