Norton Museum of Art reunites John Singer Sargent paintings

The Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach, FL has reunited two portraits by John Singer Sargent one century after the two paintings last were displayed together. The pairing will remain on view through mid-March 2024.

In 2022, the Museum acquired Portrait of Mrs. Frederick Guest (Amy Phipps), depicting the daughter of steel magnate Henry Phipps Jr., business partner of Andrew Carnegie. The portrait was a gift from the sitter’s grandson, Alexander M.D.C. Guest, and the Guest family. It is the Museum’s first oil painting by Sargent, and it has a South Florida connection: Mrs. Guest was a longtime resident of Palm Beach. 

Now, the Museum also has on display Portrait of Mrs. Henry Phipps and her Grandson Winston Guest, 1906-1907, on loan from Old Westbury Gardens, Old Westbury, New York, a museum and events space that once was the Phipps family’s home.  

“Art is all about connections. There is no greater connection than family,” Ghislain d’Humiéres, Kenneth C. Griffin Director and CEO of the Norton Museum of Art, said. 

A year after Sargent painted the portrait of Amy Phipps Guest, the family commissioned him to create a portrait of Mrs. Guest’s mother, Annie Shaffer Phipps, also a longtime Palm Beach resident. 

The resulting painting, Portrait of Mrs. Henry Phipps and her Grandson Winston Guest, 1906-1907, came about after Amy Phipps Guest encouraged her mother to sit for a portrait by Sargent. According to Mrs. Phipps’ grandson, Winston Guest, Mrs. Phipps requested to be painted with a grandchild on her lap. Because Ben Phipps was traveling abroad, the younger Winston was chosen instead.

The portrait most likely was painted at Sargent’s London Studio. It later was installed in Henry Phipps’ Fifth Avenue mansion. Sargent’s 1905 portrait of Amy Phipps Guest also hung there, according to photographs published in a 1923 issue of Town and Country magazine. The painting was exhibited at least three times in New York, in 1924, 1947 and 1966. 

Henry’s eldest son was John S. Phipps (referred to as Jay), who acquired the painting of Amy Shaffer Phipps after the death of his parents and displayed it in the dining room in the Westbury house. Ben was Jay’s eldest son; Amy was Jay’s sister. In 1921, Jay and Margarita Grace Phipps hired Addison Mizner to design Casa Bendita. Both the Guests and the Phippses were taste makers on Long Island and in Palm Beach in the early 20th century.  

At the time the paintings were created, Sargent was at his peak as a society portrait painter. Each of these works captures the essence of its subjects, all in the Old Master tradition but with the free paint handling that marks Sargent’s style as modern. 

“This reunion was never intended, but by coincidence we were able to bring them together,” Anke Van Wagenberg, Harold and Anne Berkley Smith Senior Curator of American and European Art at the Norton Museum of Art, said. “The paintings complement one another, both thematically and aesthetically. We are grateful to Old Westbury Gardens for enabling us to reunite the three generations in Sargent’s two paintings for the first time in more than a century.”

ABOUT THE NORTON MUSEUM OF ART  

Founded in 1941 by Ralph Hubbard Norton and his wife Elizabeth Calhoun Norton, The Norton Museum of Art collects, preserves, and exhibits art, and engages the public through diverse special exhibitions, publications, and events. Programs, lectures, and workshops are held year-round, with an emphasis on activating works on view and inspiring the public through the power of art.

The Museum is internationally known for its collection of more than 8,500 works of art in American Art, Chinese Art, Contemporary Art, European Art, and Photography.

ABOUT OLD WESTBURY GARDENS 

Old Westbury Gardens, completed in 1906 by the English designer George A. Crawley, includes a magnificent Charles II-style mansion nestled amid 200 acres of formal gardens, landscaped grounds, woodlands, ponds and lakes. Westbury House is furnished with fine English antiques and decorative arts from the more than 50 years as the family’s residence.  

The property now serves as a museum that welcomes visitors of all ages for tours of the house and gardens, as well as for museum exhibitions, health and wellness classes, classic car shows, indoor and outdoor classical and pop concerts, lectures, book signings, horticultural demonstrations and workshops, Scottish Games, botanical arts and gardening classes, and Master Gardener and educator-led talks and tours of topics relating to horticulture, art, history, design and architecture.

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