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Art Dealer Tales – The Sisters — Blue Heron Fine Art Blog

Art Dealer Tales – The Sisters

by Jim Puzinas on June 3, 2009

It all started with a little girl.

I spotted her from across the room. Soulful eyes that engaged you immediately.  A playful cat near her side.  What a wonderful example of 19th century American portraiture. I learned from the antique dealer that this portrait had descended through the family over the years and had recently come from a home in Skowhegan, Maine whose divorced owner was selling it to raise some funds. 


On the back, an old label described the sitter as

 ”Amanda Leeds – youngest child of Samuel and Elizabeth (Tewksbury) Leeds and sister of Caroline (Slater?) and Elizabeth (H.) Leeds Whitney.  Died young.”

I didn’t know where I would hang the portrait, but I knew I wanted it as part of my collection. I followed my own advice and “bought what I liked”. (See earlier post http://tinyurl.com/o4c56p ).

The enterprising antique dealer then pointed out another portrait on the opposite wall. It also had come from the same home and was described on its label as ”Elizabeth Harriet Leeds at 18 years of age”, the sister of Amanda.


Although Elizabeth was well executed, she didn’t immediately appeal to me, much too staid for my liking. The dealer then pointed out that both sisters were from a prominent 19th century Boston family, and that Amanda died young, but that Elizabeth had married and led full life. She died in 1877.

I was intrigued with the family history, the Boston connection, and that the two would make a nice pair of portraits if displayed together.  They both returned with me to Cohasset at the end of the summer of 1994. Both portraits were hung upstairs in a guest bedroom, where they continued to mesmerize anyone who looked at them.

 Little did I know that there were additional family members to come!

Stay tuned - part two next week, “The Parents”.


Lori Woodward Simons June 3, 2009 at 6:33 pm

thanks Jim for relating this story. Can’t wait for the next episode.

When did you first begin collecting art? Did you begin with deceased artists? I love their work, but can only afford living artists for now. My favorites are: Alfred Thompson Bricher, Hugh Bolton Jones, Olive Parker Black, William Trost Richards… well, you get the idea. I copied a Richard’s painting for an article in Watercolor Magazine – learned a ton by the process.

WTR’s painting was still a heck of a lot better than mine.. no surprise here.
Thanks again,

Wendy C June 4, 2009 at 1:57 am

Well now I’m intrigued! I actually like the Elizabeth portrait better, but can’t say why.
Your blog is coming along great Jim – enjoying reading your posts.


Jim Puzinas June 4, 2009 at 9:24 am

I appreciate your comments, Wendy. I thought I would feature a new category of posts, called art dealer tales. This is the first. I have heard so many great stories from much older art dealers, that I wish they had published them somewhere when they were younger. This blog may allow me to post some of my tales from time to time, that I think may be of interest to collectors in general. My plan is to include these posts in addition to my other posts about art education or certain art movements.

Jim Puzinas June 4, 2009 at 9:38 am

Hi Lori, I am also a painter. Painting several times a years when I can commit 2 to 3 weeks. Usually mid winter, and mid summer. A little more of my backround is available on AskArt http://tinyurl.com/q6ukce or by going to my website http://www.puzinas.com
Our gallery has sold a number of Olive P Black paintings over the years. Your favorites are all artists that we are interested in as well. I was priviledged to be able to see a number of WTR watercolors several years ago in person and I was blown away. They are much more interesting to me than his gigantic oil crashing seascapes!
Don’t shortchange your work! All artists admire their favorites, but it is up to them to develop their own individual interpretations! Keep up the good work!

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