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 Elizabeth Morse (Hunking) Walsh  (1886 - 1983)



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Lived/Active: Massachusetts      Known for: portrait, figure, industrial, landscape paintings

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Ad Code: 4
Elizabeth Walsh
from Auction House Records.
Portrait of a Woman
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
The following is from Peter Kostoulakos, ISA ˜ Fine Art Consultant

Elizabeth Morse Walsh was born in Lowell, MA in 1886 and died an active artist in her native city in 1983. She is best known for her oil portraits of prominent citizens of Lowell and the Boston area, but also painted figures, landscapes and industrial scenes.

Her parents, Alonzo and Adelaide Walsh, encouraged her to pursue the study of art and, after completing her education in the Lowell Public Schools and the Quincy Mansion School, she entered the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. Miss Walsh studied under such Boston notables as Frank Weston Benson (1862-1951), Edmund Charles Tarbell (1862-1938), William McGregor Paxton (1869-1941), and Philip Leslie Hale (1865-1931).

Walsh graduated with honors from the MFA School. In 1915 she won the Sears prize for advanced painting and, in 1916, the Paige Traveling Scholarship — a $2400 prize and two years study in the European art centers.

The outbreak of WWI caused her to delay her trip abroad, but in 1922 she was off to Paris. She studied in a studio on the Left Bank with the portrait and genre painter, Louis Francois Biloul (1874-1947). During the two years, she visited the studio of John Singer Sargent; copied the Masters at the Louvre, the Tate Gallery in London, and the Prado Museum in Madrid; and visited Holland, Switzerland, and Italy.

When Walsh returned to America in 1925, she exhibited her European work at the MFA, Boston and the Whistler House Museum in Lowell; painted portraits; and worked as an artist for "Reader's Digest" and Filene's Department Store. Walsh was also an actress under the WPA project and played the part of Topsy in Harriet Beecher Stowe's, "Uncle Tom's Cabin.

Her portraits of notables include Congresswoman Edith Nourse Rogers, Calvin Coolidge, Jr., son of President Coolidge, Judge Reynolds, and Judge Fisher.

Walsh was fascinated with the life and work of James Abbott McNeill Whistler (1834-1903) because he was born in her hometown, Lowell, MA. She was able to achieve the blurry affect of Whistler's use of lost and found edges because, as she stated, she was nearsighted. In 1947 she gave a talk on Whistler to a civic group and later, in 1979, published a book with her sketches of his work and a commentary on their composition.

She also published two other books: A selection of quotes entitled, "The Picturesque English of Henry James" published in 1976; and a biography on the artist and inventor, Samuel Finley Breese Morse (1791-1872), a relation on her mother's side of the family.

Miss Walsh became Mrs. Hunking in 1950 when, at the age of sixty-four, she married a construction engineer by the name of Sidney Hewes Hunking. They were together until he died in 1966.

Elizabeth Morse Walsh Hunking exhibited at the Whistler House Museum in Lowell, MA — where she had one-woman shows in 1918 and 1980; the MFA, Boston; the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, DC; the Paris Salon; the St. Louis Art Museum; and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.

She was a member of the Concord Art Association and the Brush and Chisel Club in Boston.

Peter Falk, "Who Was Who in American Art", Vol. I page 656
Ray Davenport, "Davenport's Art Reference 2001/2002", page 1928 Whistler House Museum files
Center for Lowell History, Mogan Center
"Lowell Sun", Dec. 8, 1980.

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Elizabeth Morse Walsh (Hunking) was known as a painter of portraits, figures, and landscapes. Walsh received her training at the MFA School under Bensen, Tarbell, Paxton, and Hale around 1906. There she was awarded a scholarship to study abroad. However, she decided to wait to travel abroad until the end of the intervening years of World War I. While she waited, she painted portraits and exhibited her work at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and the St. Louis Art Museum. She also had a solo show at the Whistler House in Lowell in 1918.

By 1922, Walsh could safely travel to Europe, spending two years in Paris studying with the academic artist, Louis Biloul and exhibiting at the Salon. She also visited England, Holland, Spain, Switzerland, and Italy. Upon her return, she displayed the work she created in Europe at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and the Whistler House.

In her career she painted over 150 portraits, which today are primarily in public and private collections. She was known for her sense of color, her technical excellence, and her faithful reproduction of other artists' masterpieces.

She married Sidney Hewes Hunking, a construction engineer, at the age of sixty-four. She continued to paint into her nineties, producing miniatures, watercolors, and drawings. She also wrote and privately published three books in her last decade, a collection of quotations of Henry James, sketches and commentary on Whistler's work, and a biography of Samuel F. B. Morse, an ancestor on her mother's side.

Hirshler, E. "A Studio of Her Own, Women Artists in Boston 1870-1940"

Biography from Whistler House Museum of Art:
Long-missing portrait comes home to Lowell's Whistler House,
May 13, 2012
Lowell Sun Newspaper

By Jennifer Myers,

LOWELL -- Deep in the recesses of his mind, Greg Pennington knew this day would come -- the day Henry's rightful owner came looking.

Henry had kind eyes. He had been a trusted companion for a dozen years. He was a good listener, never judged, criticized, or budged from his moderately temperate, ultraviolet light-free spot on the foyer wall.

"Henry" is a 50-inch-by-40-inch, gold-leaf-framed oil painting of Henry W. Barnes, who had served as president of the Central Savings Bank from 1914 until his death at the age of 98 in 1952. The painting came with Pennington's purchase of the 111-year old Victorian manse at 30 Huntington St. -- the one-time Barnes House Bed and Breakfast -- from James and Judith (Hayden) Fitzgerald in 2000.

"I was told the painting had come from the bank," he said. "I just figured it was loose booty from when the bank closed (in 1992)."

Pennington did not know that the portrait, painted in 1948 by famed Lowell artist Elizabeth Morse Walsh, had been gifted by the bank to the Whistler House Museum in 1987. It had been missing from their collection for 23 years.

By standards of the art world, "Henry" had been "stolen."

The Whistler House lent the portrait in November 1989 to the Barnes House as part of the celebration of the home's 100th birthday.

As the story goes, the following spring representatives from the museum knocked on the door of the Barnes House, which in addition to being a bed and breakfast was also a boarding house, to retrieve the painting. The person who answered the door said the painting was no longer there and closed the door.

The museum was in the midst of administrative turmoil, transitioning to a new executive director. The missing portrait fell through the cracks, a cold case left undisturbed for more than two decades.

"Over the last couple of years we have been sorting though our inventory and discovered this painting was missing," said Whistler House President Sara Bogosian.

Fine-art consultant Peter Kostoulakos began researching the painting and found the loan agreement, signed by Judith Hayden, allowing the portrait to hang at the Barnes House from November 1989 to February 1990.

Steve Stowell, administrator of the Lowell Historic Board, provided Kostoulakos with information regarding the house and its ownership, setting him on the trail to Pennington.
Bogosian said watching Kostoulakos unravel the mystery was like reading a good book, anticipating what the next page would bring.

He would send her an email almost daily containing new tidbits, a crumb trail leading back to Henry.

Pennington was taken aback when he received a voicemail from Kostoulakos inquiring about the painting at the beginning of April.

"I thought it was a scam, he was some kind of con artist," he said. "But I know everybody who has gone through my house in 12 years, so I could not figure out how he would know about the painting."

Pennington called Whistler House Executive Director Michael Lally to confirm Kostoulakos' identity. Lally described the painting, its size, its catalogue number, the exact location of artist Walsh's signature.

"I could have told the guy to jump off a bridge and be done with it, but I knew it wasn't mine," Pennington said.

Then Pennington learned the painting was considered "stolen."

He feared what was coming next. Maybe because he has seen too many art-heist movies. Maybe because he had worked at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum shortly after its famous heist. Would his house suddenly be surrounded by Lowell police cruisers, their blue lights dancing along his windowpanes?

On April 17 at 1 p.m., Pennington met with Kostoulakos, Bogosian and Lally at Starbucks on Drum Hill in Chelmsford. They sipped coffee and talked art, discovering they had a lot in common. By the end, Pennington agreed to return Henry, of whom he had taken very good care, to the museum. There was one condition.

"I did not want Henry to end up stored away in a warehouse," he said.

On April 28, the Whistler House trio drove to Belvidere to bring Henry back to his Acre home on Worthern Street, the birthplace of renowned artist James McNeill Whistler (you may know his mother).

"It was very painful for all of us to go to Greg's house to take the painting," said Kostoulakos.

"We were all feeling very guilty because we knew it meant a lot to Greg, and he is such a nice guy," said Bogosian.

Pennington admits it was difficult saying farewell to his old friend, but he knows it was the right thing to do.

"I figured if I have this one chance to make it right, let's make it right," he said. "I knew I couldn't take care of Henry forever."

Lally has promised to find a suitable place in the Whistler House to hang Henry so the public can enjoy him and Pennington can visit his friend.

"And he'll be loved for generations to come," added Whistler House Vice President Terry O'Connor.

But this is more than a story about a painting returned to its owner. It is a story about community.

Pennington calls himself an "introverted urban hermit." He keeps to himself. He did not know much about the Whistler House. Now he's been asked to join the board of directors "and be part of the Whistler House family," Bogosian said. "We are going to have a lot of fun."

"I already feel like part of the family," Pennington said.

Kostoulakos has tracked down more of the work of Elizabeth Morse Walsh, held by family members in Pepperell and Milton, and hopes to hold an exhibit at the museum.

"She studied with the best Boston art teachers and traveled and worked in Europe, but she came back to Lowell," he said, adding her work had been featured in solo exhibits at the museum in 1918 and 1980.

"She painted many prominent people in Lowell and is so important to the city; I think it is fitting to hold another exhibit of her work here."

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