HOUSE, Mrs Edward Mandell (Loulie Hunter)

Half-length, dressed in black, with a fur-edged chiffon-like wrap over it, wearing a choker of black velvet, clasped at the neck, and a single string of pearls, and below the waist possibly a silver bow clasp at the front. Oil on canvas, 30″ x 25″, signed upper left ‘A. Muller-Ury’. The frame, of three simple gilt line-mouldings, 36″ x 31″.

Private Collection, New Hampshire, USA.

By Family descent to the sitter’s great-granddaughter.

American Art News, Vol. 15, No. 25, New York, March 31, 1917, p. 8

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The sitter, who was born Loulie Hunter on January 15, 1859, married Colonel Edward M. House (1858 – 1938), the future aide-de-camp to President Woodrow Wilson, on August 4, 1881. He came from Austin, Texas. Their children were Mrs. Mona Tucker and Mrs. Janet Auchincloss. Their home was at one time at 104 East 68th Street, New York. Mrs. House died on December 26, 1940.

Muller-Ury painted Loulie House in 1916 – probably just after finishing the portrait of Mrs. Woodrow Wilson. American Art News says in error it is a three-quarter portrait, but there is no evidence this has been cut down. The 1916 photograph of the picture was taken by Mary Hopson.

In a letter written on April 12, 1916, from 115, East 53rd Street, New York, the sitter wrote the following card, now in the artist’s papers:

‘My dear Mr. Muller-Ury,

You will probably be pleased to hear that at our dinner last eve. your portrait of me was the sole topic of conversation when we first went in the dining room – there was not one dissenting voice, they all thought it a marvellous success. The family are more enthusiastic than ever, especially since those last little changes. Our friends generally have considered it not only a good portrait but a splendid piece of artistic work. I know it would please you to hear all this. Yours sincerely,

                                                            Loulie House.’

And from the same address (but on Texas note paper) on February 23, 1917 Colonel House wrote to Muller-Ury (same source; copy in Yale University Library, EM House papers, MS466, Box 82A, Folder 2808) as follows:

‘Dear Mr. Muller-Ury:

The lovely portrait of Mrs. House comes this afternoon to remind me that I have not sufficiently thanked you for the genius which called it forth. It is a masterpiece and I think it will be so considered.

Will you not let me know to what extent I am indebted to you in money so that I may send you my check.

I hope that your stay in Nassau will be beneficial and pleasant.

             Sincerely yours, E.M. House.’

The artist replied to House on March 13, 1917 (typed transcript of lost original, Yale University Library, EM House papers, MS466, Box 82A, Folder 2808):

‘My dear Colonel House

I am delighted to know that the portrait of Mrs. House has found your family so pleased, and I hope your friends will think so too. The staying at Nassau was most agreable — but I am glad to work in my studio again — I wonder if the Attorney General is coming over soon — With a short sitting the portrait would be finished — and I would like to see it at its place soon — Regarding the indebtedness of the portrait of Mrs. House there is none — but $100 would cover the expenses of frame paint and canvas.

Most sincerely yours, Adolfo Muller Ury’

House replied the next day from 115 East 53rd Street, New York (carbon copy of lost original: same source):

‘Dear Mr. Muller-Ury

I want you to know of my very sincere appreciation of your kindness.  You have been most generous and the portrait will be a constant reminder of it.

I am enclosing my check for one hundred dollars in payment of the frame.

           With all good wishes, I am,

          Sincerely yours, E.M. House

P.S.  The Attorney General will probably be over sometime next week and I will take him to your studio.’

The artist’s stay in Nassau was to execute a commission of the portrait of Lady Frederick Williams-Taylor. The Attorney General was Thomas Watt Gregory, whose portrait by Muller-Ury is in the US Department of Justice.