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 Ruth Appleton Perkins Safford  (1892 - 1979)

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Lived/Active: District Of Columbia/Massachusetts      Known for: interiors, home exterior, landscape

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BIOGRAPHY for Ruth Safford
Facts/Data
Birth
1892 (Boston, Massachusetts)
 
Death
1979 (Washington District Of Columbia)

Lived/Active
District Of Columbia/Massachusetts

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interiors, home exterior, landscape

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
The following information, submitted by Stephen W. Holbrook, was excerpted from an article titled "The Inside Story of Ruth Safford's Art", written in the "Down East" magazine of Maine, dated July 1971, by Isabel Durrier.

Ruth Perkins Safford of Blue Hill, Maine and Washington, D.C. is in the opinion of many museum directors the only artist in America who specializes in portraits of interiors of buildings. Less known among Mrs. Safford's many distinctions has been her almost lifelong determination to reproduce down east beauty spots in paintings that sometimes are the only existing record of a vanished feature on the changing face of Maine. She has produced perhaps the most complete 20th century architectural history of Maine, ranging from mansions to fish-houses, both inside and out.

Her beautiful watercolor of the staircase in the Black House at Ellsworth is in the permanent collection of the Farnsworth Museum at Rockland, Maine and Ethelbert Nevin's summer home at Blue Hill.

Born and bred in Boston, Ruth Appleton Perkins' ancestry includes a Harvard president (Appleton) and founders of the Perkins Institute for the Blind at Watertown.

She graduated from the Massachusetts College of Art and married Captain Laurance Frye Safford (USN RET), who hailed from Newburyport. In her early days she made paintings of the sea and of ships. Mrs. Safford got a four-year traveling exhibition grant under the sponsorship of the Mellon Foundation to display her paintings of the interiors of famous homes in Virginia. She got this support from the foundation after Andrew Mellon saw her paintings and said "Whoever painted this should do more like it." She uses watercolors and gouache for her paintings. Critics usually call attention to the quality of warmth in the rooms she portrays, and particularly stress the characteristic Safford touch of sunlight streaming across a room or a stairway in her paintings.

The American Institute of Architects reproduced Safford's painting of the stairway at Octagon House in Washington for its official Christmas card.

She belonged to the Guild of Boston Artists, founded by John Singer Sargent. She also belonged to the American Watercolor Society and the Arts Club and Watercolor Society of Washington.

Safford's nickname was Perky.

Pictures of paintings in this article included Stairway of Black Mansion, Ellsworth, and the Living Room at Safford's home "Tranquility" Blue Hill, Maine. A number of her other paintings appear in this article.

Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond, Virginia has her paintings. She painted interiors and exteriors of famous houses during the 1930s and she worked with Mrs. Crowningshield, formerly Miss Dupont of Delaware, who was Vice President of our Nation Trust.

Safford's paintings were made into post cards and prints and sold at the National Historic Houses including George Washington's Wakefield, George Washington's Mount Vernon, and The house at Arlington National Cemetery.

She lived in a Georgetown, Washington D.C. house and is buried there in a cemetery. The money from these post cards and prints was used to help restore and operate these as well as many other historic sites up and down the East Coast.

Her husband was a Navel Captain and they used to sail with Mrs. Crowningshield in her very large boat. She was a member of the Washington D.C. Water Color Association as well as other associations. She was from Boston. She was considered one of the best artist of her time and only the very rich could afford her paintings.

REFERENCES:

THE SUNDAY STAR (Washington DC)
March 30, 1952 page c-11
June 2, 1946 Grayure Section
11/11/56
1/28/43 page c-6
2/17/52
3/24/46 page c-5
3/17/57
Washington Post
3/8/42 page 6
11/22/36
THE WASHINGTON POST AND TIMES HERALD
2/27/55 PAGE B-4
DOWN EAST MAGAZINE ROCKPORT, ME.
JULY, 1971, p 58.

Ruth Perkins Safford's home address was 2821 Dumbarton Avenue, Washington DC. The list of paintings below were done by her of historic places in the eastern part of the United Sates. Post cards and prints were made from these paintings and sold to the public at the historic sites. The money was used to maintain the sites.

MOUNT VERNON: BANQUET HALL, PANTRY, DINING ROOM, BED ROOM

WAKEFIELD: KITCHEN, BED ROOM, DINING ROOM, DRAWING ROOM

COLONIAL WILLIAMSBURG: CHRISTMAS TABLE

KENMORE, DINING ROOM, HALL, LIBRARY, BED ROOM, KITCHEN

ROOSEVELT'S HOME, HYDE PARK: EXTERIOR, BED ROOM, LIBRARY, SMUGGERY
DRESDEN ROOM, DINING ROOM

HAMMOND-HARWOOD HOUSE, ANNAPOLIS, MD.: BALL ROOM, DINING ROOM

U.S. FRIGATE CONSTITUTION: TRIPOLI TREATY ROOM, BERTH DECK

ROYAL HOUSE MEDFORD, MASS: BED ROOM, WITH BED OF FRANKLIN PIERCE

HOME OF WASHINGTON'S PHYSICIAN, (DR. BROWN) ALEXANDRIA, VA: HALL

LEE MANSION ARLINGTON VA: FAMILY PARLOR (ANDREW MELLON), SLAVE QUARTERS

SUMMER KITCHEN, DRAWING ROOM, SCHOOL ROOM, GEN LEE'S OFFICE, GEN LEE'S BED ROOM, CHILDREN'S ROOM, CHRISTMAS TREE, DINING ROOM

LEE MANSION MARBLEHEAD, MASS: DRAWING ROOM, HALL

DECATUR HOUSE WASHINGTON, D.C.: HALL

CHAPEL U.S. NAVEL ACADEMY: INTERIOR OF CHAPEL, PORTER WINDOW, NAVE

NATIONAL CATHEDRAL: NORTH TRANSEPT

OLD NORTH CHURCH BOSTON, MASS: INTERIOR

HISTORIC DRUG STORES: STABLER-LEADBETTER ALEXANDRIA, VA., HUGH MERCER FREDERICKSBURG, VA.

HISTORIC STAIRWAYS: GORE PLACE WALTHAM, MASS.. BLACK HOUSE ELLSWORTH, ME.
GOVERNOR'S MANSION ANNAPOLIS, MARYLAND
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The following is from "Who Was Who in American Art" by Peter Falk

Born in Boston, Massachusetts, Ruth Safford studied at the Massachusetts College of Art and also with Henry Snell, Joseph De Camp, and Henry Breckenridge. She was a member of the Guild of Boston Artists, the Washington Art Club, and the Copley Society as well as the North Shore Arts Association. Her commissions include interiors of Gunston Hall, the National Cathedral, and the Lee Mansion.

She had over 100 solo exhibitions and her preferred medium was watercolor. She also taught art in the Medford, Pennsylvania public schools and the Harvard Educational School.
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Note submitted November 2004 by Skipper Steely, Paris, Texas.

I don't know much about Ruth Safford except that her husband was probably the most controversial figure at the Pearl Harbor Congressional Hearings, and still
is the subject of much speculation for his insistence that a coded message came into D.C. offices telling of the impending attack.

According to his probate papers I looked at in D.C. last month, they had no children. He left money to an animal shelter in Dover, Mass, still running. . . .They apparently had no relatives nor heirs.

I am writing a book on Admiral James Otto Richardson, a contemporary of Safford's.






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