Maude Adams painting

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Todd B. Kimmell

Guest
Good morning!

My wife and I recently acquired a magnificent painting of Maude Adams as Peter Pan, after years of negotiations with the previous owners.

Is this a good place to announce its rediscovery after generations as a lost work? I can add links to various views of it, and highlights of the signature, etc., if that is OK to do here.

Do let me know. I will put forward the same question on the Lusitania section of the list serve, and would be happy to add links in both places.

There is much we wish to learn about the history and provenance of this painting, and so far I've spent three days at the NY Public Library's fabulous Lincoln Center facility. This Thursday, I'll continue my quest at The Museum Of The City Of New York.

I love a great treasure hunt. For me, acquiring the painting was just the first part of the journey...

thanks and all the best,

Todd Kimmell
 
Apr 11, 2001
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Todd, yes, the detective work is always the most fun, and meeting people and traveling along the way. Maude Adams has been a favorite of mine for over 20 years, and was at one time, America's Sweetheart. There are several postcard versions of Frohman's great star as Peter, including the familiar one on the cover of Ada Paterson's bio of Maude. Your oil is very like a watercolor , in fact I would bet it is a study for it, owned by Dave Thomson. I would suggest you call the Cenacle sisters in Lake Ronkonkoma, L.I. NY -Maude's favorite retreat which was a farm in her day and later left to the nuns. Although she had Mormon roots, she loved the serenity of convent life, and stayed in one for a time in France. She is buried there, alongside her secretary and long-time companion.
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The Cenacle retreat house at Lake Ronkonkoma maintains Maude's house, and a collection of her stage props and paintings. My favorite is a statue of Maude on a horse in the role of Joan of Arc (bronze) presented to her by the republic of France. She was amazing in this role, performed at Harvard, when she roared into the stadium on a white stallion in full armour.. Pusey Library at Harvard has 14 large archival boxes chock full of Sarony portrait photos of Maude which are breath-taking. Years ago I met one of the Cenacle nuns who had known Maude, and told wonderful anecdotes of her lying in the big bed, surrounded with books and notepapers (she was an avid letterwriter)with both long braids hanging down like a school girl. In later life she taught at Stephens College in Columbia, MO and went on to invent methods of stage lighting, direct plays, and teach elocution. http://www.cenaclesisters.org/ronkhis.htm
and the best Maude website http://www.bookmice.net/darkchilde/maude/adams.html
 
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After some careful perusal, Todd, I am afraid your Peter Pan portrait is probably not Maude Adams. Many women actresses played Maude over the years from 1905-1991. The costume in this portrait is nothing like Maude's as you can see, but very much like Betty Bronson's. Betty also has the high cheekbones, and facial expression matching your portrait. She was a great star and made the 1924 Paramount film version of Peter Pan. The Peter Pan collar became a fashion rage and endured well into the early 1960's.
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Apr 11, 2001
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A fuller view of the two costumes side by side of Bronson and your portrait-note the sleeve scallops, mottling and collar,belt and tunic lines are identical, although the under blouse is missing in the Bronson photo..
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Nina Boucicault originated the role of Peter at age 37, in the London Palladium opening, although pretty Pauline Chase was Barrie's favorite Peter, in the London role from 1906-1914.

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Others who would try the role in the UK included Elsa Lancaster, Maggie Smith, Nova Pilbeam, Hayley Mills, Anna Neagle, Dinah Sheridan, and Jean Forbes-Robertson who may hold the record from 1927-1939. Broadway followed Maude Adams (1905-1915) with Marilyn Miller (1924-25) who was a ballet dancer who "Panned as Peter" as the reviews quipped. She did launch a popular song and sheet music though from the effort. Eva La Gallienne tried again and had a good run from 1928-33, Anne Edgar tried a reprise in 1946 and Jean Arthur in 1950-51. Most of us old fossils recall Mary Martin's version which was a television smash in black and white in 1954, Sandy Duncan's engaging performance on Broadway in 1979-80, and most recently Olympic gold medal gymnast Cathy Rigby 1990-91. Many other lesser mortals have also filled the bill on both sides of the Atlantic.
 

Philip Hind

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Sep 1, 1996
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Posted on behalf of Todd Kimmell sent via email

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To Encyclopedia Titanica,

I just revisited this thread we started on your site 6 years ago about the rediscovery of a delightful painting of Maude Adams as Peter Pan.

There were several enthusiastic responses from a Ms. Dziedzic at that time, and I thank her for her enthusiasm. That said, since this becomes part of the record I need to take a moment and address a few of her comments so that they don't remain part of the record uncorrected.

Dziedzic states that "Your oil is very like a watercolor , in fact I would bet it is a study for it, owned by Dave Thomson." That simply does not make any sense, though I'm sure Mr. Thomson loves his watercolor and I do not wish to detract from it in any way.

She says "After some careful perusal, Todd, I am afraid your Peter Pan portrait is probably not Maude Adams. Many women actresses played Maude over the years from 1905-1991. The costume in this portrait is nothing like Maude's as you can see, but very much like Betty Bronson's. Betty also has the high cheekbones, and facial expression matching your portrait. She was a great star and made the 1924 Paramount film version of Peter Pan. The Peter Pan collar became a fashion rage and endured well into the early 1960's."

I have been to the Museum of the City of New York to review the Frohman papers and the Adams papers and photographs housed therein, several times. There was a time, six years ago, when I was such a regular at the Billy Rose Theatre Collection of the New York Public Library that folks there knew me by name, all in reference to looking for clues to the origins of this painting. While at the NYPL, I came across a series of photos, all of the publicity photo shoot which generated this pose. This pose is one of many, all on the same section of stage, all in the same costume, all Maude Adams, all with her head thrown back, expressing the joy, the freedom of being Peter Pan. The one photo of this series not there is this exact pose, my guess being that it went out to our mysterious 'Best' or to the editor of The Century for his artist Ivanowski to paint his version as part of a series of actress paintings.

I invite Ms. Dziedzic to visit the same collection and seek out these exact photos. I believe it will give her a fresh, informed perspective, and they are just genuinely exciting to see in general.

The Best signature, which we believe to be an in joke between Frohman and Richard Watson Gilder and George de forest Brush, is done in a very strong art nouveau style, and the frame, which the painting has never been out of, is consistent with late 19th early 20 century framing. To see a treasure trove of similar work all in one place, visit The Players Club. The collection that lines their walls is mind boggling.

That said, again in reference to Ms. Dziedzic's comments, no one in the 1920s would sign something strongly in a style that would be two decades out of fashion at that point, or frame such a work in a way that would already seem less than modern.

I mention all this now because we are revisiting the research concerning this painting, and I would like anyone with comments or suggestions, including Ms. Dziedzic, to please feel free to put those ideas, facts, theories, etc. forward. Somewhere, there are photos of this painting on the wall of SOMEONE'S home or office or club or what have you, whether that is Charles Frohman or his brother Daniel, Homer Saint Gaudens or John Drew or Ethel Barrymore, or any of the dozens of fascinating fin de siecle characters that meet in one way or another at the intersection that is this painting.

A last note... I will make every effort to publish the aforementioned series of publicity photos. They were clearly meant to emphasize something that is inexplicably missing from almost all of the Peter Pan material I have seen or collected from that period. The beaming, exuberant joy and freedom of being that boy, swinging through the trees, fighting pirates, leading his Lost Boys on adventures, and even flying. That is the character that millions of Maude Adams fans fell in love with, and that she is clearly acting her way through in the photos. That joy is captured in our painting, yet entirely lost in the much grander painting from the same photo commissioned by Gilder and painted by Ivanowski, which ultimately feels like just a handsome illustration, void of life.

I include a jpeg of the painting and ask you to post it with this missive for reference. Please note that the image shows the painting brightened by Photoshop, that it is actually much darker than you see, both the painting and the frame. We made the decision to not have it restored yet, certainly not until it has found its permanent home, whether that is an individual or an institution. At that point the new owners will almost certainly cause it to be cleaned and restored.

All the best,

Todd Kimmell

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Jan 28, 2003
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I liked Peter Pan as a child, but have always been puzzled since I grew up. No woman I've ever known has expressed a wish to stay a child / adolescent, but it seems to be an ever-present guy dream. Women seem to prefer to wish to have stayed in their mature late-20s / early 30s.

The default gender for mammals is, I believe, female. So everyone is female for a couple of weeks after conception, and then genetic switches turn just over half of us into males. In birds, it's the other way round - the default gender is male. I think this may do something. Both female mammals and male birds seem to carry the burden of responsibility, whereas their mates are constantly running / flitting off to cheat on them.

I may be entirely wrong, but it's interesting, isn't it?
 

Sally Faires

Member
Oct 21, 2017
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Dear Mr. Kimmell,
At an estate sale today in High Point, NC, I purchased a pamphlet that looks to be from the 20's, although I can't find a copyright. It is a group of about 6 prints, beautifully printed and given as a Christmas gift from the printers, most likely to their patrons. In it is a painting entitled, "Maud Adams as Peter Pan". It caught my attention because it is a strikingly beautiful painting, and I wondered who painted it. My googling led me to this post. It is most definitely, in my opinion, the original painting of which yours is a copy. You can judge for yourself, I will load the photo of it here. I know little of Maude Adams, but I hope this photo helps in your investigation of the painting.
Sally Faires
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Michael Reed

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Dec 27, 2017
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This is a most interesting thread! The American sculptor, Sally James Farnham(1869-1943), modeled Maude Adams as Peter Pan. The costume is very similar to the Kimmell painting. Her statuette was illustrated in a 1907 issue of Good Housekeeping which discussed a Peter Pan party held at the Waldorf Astoria in NYC in 1907.
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