HAMMERSMITH, Helen (Later Mrs John Baldwin)

Half-length, dressed in a fur-edged, purple velvet robe. Oil on canvas, 34” x 26” (86 x 66 cms), signed ‘A. Muller-Ury’.

Preservation Society of Newport County, Rhode Island

Jessica Dragonette; her husband Nicholas M. Turner; his gift to the University of Wyoming, 1987; their gift to the Preservation Society of Newport County, Rhode Island in 2007.

WILDENSTEIN & CO. INC., 19, East 64th Street, New York, April 20 – May 4, 1937, No.10 as Mrs John Baldwin.

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The sitter was born on June 18, 1904 and died in San Francisco aged 72 on November 28, 1976.  Her parents were Alfred (born 1876) and Matilda (‘Tillie’, born 1879) Hammersmith.  Her husband, John Alexander Baldwin (1902-1982), who was probably the son of Dominic Baldwin (1890-1953) of San Mateo.  He died in Alameda County, just across the bay from San Francisco.   After her marriage, the Baldwins lived in San Mateo. 

Painted in San Marino, California, in 1925/1926. Muller-Ury wrote to Archbishop Hanna of San Francisco on December 21, 1925 (Chancery Archives, Archdiocese of San Francisco) from his new home in San Marino to wish him Christmas greetings and wrote partly as follows:

‘…I am beginning to be more settled in my new studio & when you come down you must come & see it. I even started a portrait of Miss H. Hammersmith of San Francisco. She was down here last week & will return after Christmas for the finishing sittings…’

There is a letter of thanks from the sitter’s mother dated April 27, (1926) stuck in the artist’s papers:

‘My dear Mr. Ury –

Words fail me to express the joy and happiness you have afforded Mr. Hammersmith and myself in sending to us the portrait of the “Great Helen”. We find ourselves gazing at our precious child in amazement for it is so lifelike. Our gratification of having your master piece of art in our possession is the incentive of our incomparable esteem for you. Helen speaks frequently of the pleasant hours she spent with you and her enthusiasm over the last portrait is most ardent. Helen also informed us of your prospective visit here which we hope will be soon. Mr. Hammersmith joins me in extending full appreciation and thanks for the most wonderful of all we have the “great Helen” – With kindest regards – I remain

            Sincerely yours, Tillie Hammersmith.’

Muller-Ury must have made this copy of this portrait for exhibition purposes, as he exhibited it as ‘Mrs. John Baldwin’ at Wildenstein’s in 1937.  The prime version is unlocated.