MOUNT STEPHEN, Lord (Sir George Stephen)

Bust-length portrait facing left. Oil on canvas, presumably 30″ x 25″.

Alexander Reford Esq., Jardins de Metis, Canada.

The Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad; their gift to the present owner, 2008.

Town Topics, August 4, 1898.

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Sir George Stephens was born in 1829 and was created 1st Baron Mount Stephen in 1891. He had a house in Montreal, but in England he lived (in 1898) at a house in St. James’s Street, but later moved to 17, Carlton House Terrace, and at Brocket Hall in Hertfordshire which he leased from Lord Melbourne. His second wife, who died on May 1, 1933, lived after her husband’s death in 1921 at Brantridge Forest, Balcombe in Sussex. They were very close friends of Queen Mary, consort of King George V.

Bibliography of sitter:

Heather Gilbert, Awakening Continent: The Life of Lord Mount Stephen, Vol. 1: 1829-91, Aberdeen, 1965, revised edition, 1976.

Heather Gilbert, The End of The Road: The Life of Lord Mount Stephen, Vol. 2: 1892-1921, Aberdeen, 1976.

There is a letter (James. J. Hill Papers: Hill Family Collection, Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul) from the artist, written on June 13, 1898 from Pembroke Studios, Kensington, London, in which he writes the following:

‘…As soon back here I went to see Lord Mount Stephen & made arrangement for sittings – he desired to be painted at 16 James Street & so I did. The portrait is nearly finished & he is so pleased with it, that he is thinking of having a ¾ lengt(h) done for himself – I brought the portrait to my studio so as to finish it –

He came with Lady Mount Stephen few days ago & told me that he wants her Ladyship painted (& probably at Brocket Hall) – Naturally if they are pleased already now they will like the portrait even better when real finished…’

Another letter (same source) from the artist’s London studio, dated October 14, 1898 begins:

‘My dear Mr. Hill

As I am anxious to know if the portraits of Lord Strathcona and Lord Mount Stephen arrived safely in St. Paul & if they are to your satisfaction I only send this few lines to beg you for few words regarding them…My intention is to return to New York about the end of November & then probably come to St. Paul & place myself at your entire disposal for any changes you desire on the portraits sent…’

Town Topics, August 4, 1898 reported he had just completed a ‘very successful’ portrait of Lord Mount Stephen. According to the Minnesota Historical Society, Hill paid Muller-Ury on 21 February 1899, $1000 each for the portraits of Lord Strathcona and Lord Mount Stephens destined for the Great Northern Railway Building.

The portrait was donated to The Jardins de Metis, Quebec, Canada by the Railroad because it was felt that it would be appropriate to hang in a house on the site of one owned by Lord Mount Stephen, and an English garden developed by his niece Elsie Reford which is now a National Historic Site in Canada.