Sarah Tyson Hallowell
Sara Tyson Hallowell (1846–1924) was an important American art curator in the years between the Civil War and World War I. She curated a number of major exhibitions in Chicago, arranged the loan exhibition of French Art at the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago, worked with Bertha Palmer (1849–1918) to organize the murals for the women's pavilion for the fair and then moved to Paris where she served as agent for the Art Institute of Chicago and assisted wealthy Americans in their pursuit of French art. Her circle of friends included Auguste Rodin (1840–1917),Mary Cassatt (1824–1926), James Abbott McNeill Whistler (1834–1903) and the famous Swedish painter Anders Zorn (1860–1920). During World War I she and her niece Harriet Hallowell (1873–1943) performed heroic humanitarian work, treating the wounded in her home, at a small hospital and visiting prison camps behind German lines to insure Allied prisoners were treated properly. She lived in France until her death in 1924.
Early History and Family Background
Sara Tyson Hallowell was born December 7, 1846 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She is sometimes confused with the journalist and feminist Sarah Hallowell who was also born in Philadelphia, a few years after Sara Tyson Hallowell.
Her mother was Mary Morris Tyson Hallowell (1820–1913), descended from prominent Quaker families, granddaughter of the great humanitarian Elisha Tyson, of Baltimore and the prominent Morris family of Philadelphia. Her father was tubercular and died when he was forty-two. Even though the family were Quakers, three of her brothers, Morris, Francis and Lewis, fought in the Civil War for the Union Army.
Like many Quakers, Mary Morris Tyson Hallowell was dedicated to humanitarian service. She belonged to a group of leading Quaker women who worked for fire relief in Philadelphia, using their combined resources to locate and move stricken families into permanent housing and providing basic clothing and household necessities within hours of the event. Mary worked for the Sanitary Commission in Philadelphia, and in 1864, she traveled to East Tennessee to deliver relief to union sympathizers who had been turned off their farms, greatly abused, and left without clothing or food.
The Pennsylvania Historical Society has papers from the Perot and Morris families available to scholars.
Sara's nephew was the American artist George Hawley Hallowell (1872-1926) of Boston, her niece, with whom she lived most of their lives, was the painter Harriet Hallowell (1873-1943), and a cousin was the painter Maria Mott Hallowell Loud (1860-1916), known as "May Hallowell Loud," of Medford,Massachusetts.
Sara Hallowell attended the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, but the extent of her artistic training is not known. During the Civil War, most of the family's investments, which had been in the South, were lost, leaving their financial situation precarious. Sometime in the late 1860s, the family moved to Chicago in hope of finding a professional position for Sara with which she could support herself. Sara's interest in and knowledge of art earned her a position in arranging art exhibitions for the Interstate Exposition, which was an annual trade fair held in Chicago. In 1879, she was assistant clerk of the Exposition and in 1880, she became clerk for the art committee, which meant, the curator who worked with artists and collectors to select paintings. Her role as a curator required her to travel to artist's studio's in the United States as well as in Europe where many American painters were studying in the academies and ateliers of Paris. She quickly earned a reputation with artists and collectors and developed a wide circle of prominent Americans from whom she could borrow paintings from for her exhibitions. She made some of her European journeys with her mother Mary Morris Tyson Hallowell and her niece, Harriet Hallowell, who was brought up by her mother. From 1870 to 1890, she produced exhibitions that featured works by young painters and important works from the recent Paris Salons. In 1890, she introduced the works of the French Impressionists.
The Chicago World's Fair
The Chicago World's Fair, the World's Columbian Exposition, would celebrate the city's rebirth from the effects of the Chicago Fire of 1871 and the 400th anniversary of the first voyage of Christopher Columbus. Organizing the fair was a massive undertaking and the selection of art for the fair was an important role. When the Chicago fair was announced, Hallowell threw her name in the ring to be Director of Fine Arts. Sixty prominent painters signed a petition on her behalf and she was endorsed by the head of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the New York Times, and even Mark Twain. However she was passed over for the top position, which was given to Halsey Ives (1847–1911), founder of the Washington University School of Fine Arts in St. Louis. Instead of the top spot, Hallowell was made Ives' assistant and she was charged with arranging a loan exhibition of French paintings and sculpture in American collections. In addition to her curatorial role in assembling the loan exhibition for the fair, Hallowell was also heavily involved in the women's pavilion for the fair. This committee was headed by her friend and client Berthe Palmer.
The Women's Murals
For the women's pavilion, it was decided that there would be two murals, high up on each end of the vast space. The Chicago fair took place in the era of the City Beautiful Movement and the American Renaissance and when there was an emphasis on to making murals a large part of civic architecture. The themes chosen for the murals for the Women's Building of the fair were "Primitive Woman" and "Modern Women" with the murals emphasizing woman's progress. Initially,Bertha Palmer and Hallowell wanted the accomplished and academically-trained American artist Elizabeth Gardner, paramour of the artistic titan William Adolphe Bouguereau, to do both murals,but Gardner felt she was not up to the rigors of the task and turned the project down entirely. Hallowell then recommended the young academic painter Mary Farchild MacMonnies and Mary Cassatt, who was from the Impressionist circle, but little known in the United States at the time. Bertha Palmer agreed to the choices and after the re-writing of the contracts for the murals which had been too confining, the women got to work. Bertha Palmer and Hallowell met with the artists and when Palmer returned to Chicago, Hallowell remained behind in France to monitor the progress on the ambitious project. Early in 1893, the murals were shipped and installed and after the fair opened, the consensus was that the MacMonnies mural was the more successful of the two. After being stored away after the fair, both murals disappeared and their whereabouts are presently unknown. Mary McMonnies Fairchild's wonderful portrait of Sara Tyson Hallowell survives at Robinson College, Cambridge University.
Friendship with Rodin
Sara Hallowell had a long and productive friendship with the French sculptor Auguste Rodin. In the months leading up to the 1893 Chicago World's Fair, she worked hard to sell his sculpture to American collectors, but it was considered too avant-garde by everyone she approached initially. In spite of this, he greatly appreciated her efforts on his behalf. Eventually, he convinced the Chicago collector Charles Yerkes (1837–1905) to purchase Rodin's work and she eventually brought Rodin a number of collectors including Mr. & Mrs. Potter Palmer, Isabella Stewart Gardner and Elliott Clark. In appreciation for her efforts, Hallowell was given three Rodins, a bronze Sphinx, a marble and even a terra cotta.
About the turn of the century, Hallowell, her mother and her niece began living in the picturesque little village of Moret-sur-Loing which is located near the Art Colonies of Barbizon and Grez-sur-Loing, close to the Forest of Fontainebleau, where the Barbizon School painted. Because of her friendship with the French Impressionists and her familiarity with their work, Hallowell would have been quite familiar with Moret-sur Loing. Alfred Sisley died there in 1899. Mrs. Hallowell, who was now quite elderly required a lot of attention and the two younger women cared for her until her death in 1913.
War Relief Work
Because the war was so close to the Hallowell's home, a small hospital was set up in Moret-sure-Loing, "Hopital Aux No. 26"  which in English would be Auxiliary Hospital Number 26. The hospital opened in August 1914 and was active throughout the war. Sara Hallowell and Harriett Hallowell helped to treat wounded soldiers and like their grandmother did in the Civil War, raised money for refugees. At home they knitted warm clothing for French citizens who had been displaced by the fighting or whose homes had been destroyed. Also in the war, they also were involved in efforts to send care packages to allied soldiers who had been captured by the Germans. In a 1918 letter, Sara Hallowell emphasized that because of rationing in Germany, allied prisoners were in danger of starvation stating that "It is absolutely vital that such relief should be sent." She made a number of trips into the prison camps in Germany to monitor the well-being of the Allied Prisoners of War and to deliver care packages. Her niece, Harriet Hallowell, was awarded the "French Legion of Honor" the highest award which can be granted by the French government to a non-national, for relief work they undertook together. Sara's contribution is recorded with deeply felt remarks of gratitude by the Mayor of Moret-sur-Loing over her grave at her interment.
Sarah Tyson Hallowell died July 19, 1924 in Moret-sur-Loing. Her niece Harriet travelled to Boston in 1926 to visit her brother, Boston artist George Hawley Hallowell on his deathbed, and returned to France. Harriet suffered greatly during WWII and died March 5, 1943 during the Nazi occupation.
- Voluminous correspondence in the Musee Rodin collection attests to their long relationship.
- There is correspondence between the two in the University of Glasgow's Whistler Collection. She brought Mrs. Palmer to his Rue Notre Dame des Champs studio.
- She helped arrange portraits in Chicago for Zorn, he painted her mother's portrait. She was also close friends with the American Impressionist Mary Cassatt.
- Letter in possession of the United States Department of State, Passport Division describes their work, May 3, 1918
- Jeffrey Morseburg's account uses this date because she used this date on her passports of 1917 and 1918 when she had to assure authorities that her presence in a war zone was vital and necessary.
- Hallowell family accounts, passed down through Marshall Tyson Hallowell's descendents.
- Family accounts cite her attendance at PAFA.
- See Kirsten M. Jensen, Her Sex Was an Insuperable Objection: Sara Tyson Hallowell and the Art Institute of Chicago, MA Thesis, Southern Connecticut State University, 2000; and Kirsten M. Jensen, The American Salon: The Art Gallery at the Interstate Industrial Exposition, 1872-1890, PhD Thesis, The Graduate Center, CUNY, 2007; see also Jeffrey Morseburg's essay Sara Hallowell
- See extensive links below to sites on the fair.
- See Jensen, Her Sex Was an Insuperable Objection
- See Eve's Daughter/Modern Woman
- See Eve's Daughter/Modern Woman for background on Cassat's contribution.
- See Musee Rodin's collection of 121 documents.
- See Rodin and His American Collectors in Ruth Butler's book, see Kysela's Sara Hallowell brings Modern Art to the Midwest, see Jeffrey Morseburg's The Indefatigable Miss Hallowell for background and details.
- The online "Forum Histoire 1914-1918" reference lists the hospital.
- Listed in French records as HA n° 26 Moret-sur-Loing - Asile de vieillards - 40 lits - SSBM - Fonctionne du (2 août 1914 au ?)
- This is referenced by U.S. Department of State Records, Paris Embassy, 1904-1924.
- Letter in the collection of United States Department of State, May 3, 1918
Book and Periodical References
- Adler, Hirshler, Weinberg, Americans in Paris 1860-1900, Exhibition Catalog, The National Gallery, London, ISBN 1-85709-301-1
Carolyn Kinder Carr, "Prejudice and Pride: Preparing and Presenting American Art at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition," in Revisiting the White City, Washington, Smithsonian Institution, 1993. Carolyn Kinder Carr, "Sara Tyson Hallowell" in Women Building Chicago 1790-1990: A Biographical Dictionary (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2001) Carolyn Kinder Carr, "Sara T. Hallowell: Forsaking Plain for Fancy," in Quaker Aesthetics: Reflections on Quaker Ethics in American Design and Consumption," University of Pennsylvania Press, 2003.
- S.T. (Sara Tyson) Hallowell, Women in Art, Maud Howe Elliott, Art and Handicraft in the World Columbian Exposition in Chicago, 1893, Essay in Catalog
- Jeffrey Morseburg, The Indefatigable Miss Hallowell, Biographical Essay, 2010
- Kirsten M. Jensen, Her Sex Was an Insuperable Objection: Sara Tyson Hallowell and the Art Institute of Chicago, MA Thesis, Southern Connecticut State University, 2000
- Kirsten M. Jensen, The American Salon: The Art Gallery at the Interstate Industrial Exposition, 1872-1890, PhD Thesis, The Graduate Center, CUNY, 2007
- Nancy Mowell Matthews, Mary Cassatt: A Life, Yale University Press, 1998, ISBN 978-0-300-07754-4
- Hope L. Black, Mounted on a Pedestal: Bertha Honore Palmer, Masters Thesis, University of South Florida, 2007
- Sally Webster, Eve's Daughter, Modern Woman: A Mural by Mary Cassatt, 2004, ISBN 0-252-02906-2
- Art Institute of Chicago
- The Columbian Exposition in American culture.
- Photographs of the 1893 Columbian Exposition
- Photographs of the 1893 Columbian Exposition from Illinois Institute of Technology
- Interactive map of Columbian Exposition
- Musée Rodin, Paris
- Rodin Museum, Philadelphia