Portrait of Mrs. Samuel Untermyer
The Hudson River Museum’s 1906 oil painting of Mrs. Samuel Untermyer (Minnie Karl, died 1924) is a masterpiece of Edwardian-era portraiture. James Jebusa Shannon depicts her full-length and formal in low-cut silvery silk embellished with flowers, her gray hair upswept in a graceful, Gibson-girl knot. At the time, Minnie Untermyer was the mistress of Greystone, one of the grandest estates ever built in Yonkers. He and Minnie married in 1880 and had three children: Alvin (1882–1963), Irwin (1886–1973) and Irene (Mrs. Stanley L. Richter, 1893–1974). Tradition has it that Untermyer constructed Greystone’s elaborate gardens in his wife’s honor. A portion of the original Untermyer Gardens is now a public park.
In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, James Jebusa Shannon (1862–1923) and John Singer Sargent, both American expatriates, were the premier portrait painters of English Society. Shannon’s fame has long been overshadowed by that of Sargent, but the talented and prolific artist deserves more recognition. He grew up in upstate New York and Canada before relocating to England for art studies at the age of 16. Early success encouraged Shannon to stay in London permanently, but he made working trips to the northeastern United States during the winter social seasons of 1905, 1906 and 1907. According to Shannon’s daughter, he painted Mrs. Rockefeller and Mrs. Mellon, as well as Mrs. Untermyer. The Museum’s portrait, along with Shannon’s portrait of Untermyer daughter Irene, was displayed at the National Academy of Design’s Annual Exhibition in 1908.