George Peter Alexander Healy (1813-1894)
By Patricia Duzich Siska, Ph.D. © Illinois Historical Art Project
A modest granite slab marks the grave of George Peter Alexander Healy, the internationally celebrated nineteenth century American portrait painter. He is buried together with Louisa, his loyal wife of fifty-five years, near the eastern gate of the scenic lakeside Calvary Cemetery, located just north of Chicago. Engraved on the bronze plaque fitted into the couple’s stone is the following:
“George P.A. Healy, born in Boston, Massachusetts, July 15, 1813, died in Chicago, Illinois, June 24, 1894, and his wife, Louisa Phipps Healy, born in London, England, February 10, 1818, died in Chicago, Illinois, February 7, 1905.”
Calvary Cemetery, consecrated by the Catholic Church in 1859, was an appropriate burial site for the devout Catholic that Healy was. Family names of some of the artist’s many Chicagoan friends and sitters identify certain surrounding memorials. They represent one part of the greater Chicago society that welcomed Healy into its midst in 1855, and with whom he at various times lived, worked, mingled and joined together in giving shape to early Chicago history, and ultimately, to American history.
Throughout his life George Healy traveled frequently in the Eastern half of the United States and in Europe—a trait he may have inherited from his father, William Healy (1784-1834), whom Healy later identified as a “sailor.” William Healy left his native Dublin, Ireland as a boy together with two brothers and their father in 1798 as a result of the “ruin” of their father by the rebellion of that year. In London, William Healy became a midshipman with the East India Company. Afterwards, in Boston, he became the captain of a “merchant vessel.” While in that city, he met the young Mary Hicks (c.1798-1836), a Boston native of English descent. George Healy, both romantically and realistically recalled his father, and the next part of his father’s life:
“He was a bold-spirited, imprudent man, excellently well fitted for the adventurous life he led. During the war with Tripoli, finding that his vessel was on the point of being captured by a corsair’s craft, he caused all his men to land, remained himself till the last moment, blew up the ship, and barely escaped with his life. In 1812 he commanded another merchant vessel; all he possessed was invested in its cargo. An English privateer captured the ship, and sent its captain a prisoner to the island of Antiqua… when he was exchanged soon after, he returned to Boston and married without much thought for the future. My father was not suited for a landsman’s life; he was a sailor and nothing but a sailor, and each of his subsequent ventures proved disastrous.”
William Healy was married to Mary Hicks in the Catholic church of Boston on June 22, 1812, by the Rev. Francis A. Matignon. William was Catholic, Mary, Protestant. Their first child, George Peter Alexander Healy, was born on July 15, 1813. He was one of seven children—five of whom survived infancy. Healy later wrote that he was baptized by Rev. Cheverus. Not long after George’s birth, the family moved to Albany, New York, where William worked in the “Intelligence Office,” and as a “grocer.” In Albany, five children were born: William Jr. (1815-1815); John Reynolds (1816-1842); Ann Elizabeth (Agnes) (January 1818-1902); Thomas Cantwell (12/7/1820-12/10/1889); and William H. Birmingham (1822-1/7/1876). The family moved back to Boston where their last child, Samuel, was born and died in the same year, 1824. In Boston, William Healy may have returned to his occupation as sea captain.
Among recollections of his youth, Healy later wrote that he owed the fact of his not becoming a cripple to his mother. When he was about twelve, after an illness which affected the Healy family, he was left with a limp. The doctors advised amputation of his leg. His mother decided to sit upon his leg instead, after which he was healed. On June 17, 1825, Healy attended the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Bunker Hill, one of the first battles of the Revolutionary War. Honored participants included the Marquis de Lafayette, and Daniel Webster. Healy and Webster would become friends and Healy would later paint several portraits of the great nineteenth century statesman.
Healy linked his “inheritance” of a liking for painting to his grandmother, Mrs. Hicks, who painted watercolors. He remembered looking at watercolors made by her, during her “journey among the West Indian Islands.” He recalled, “the first time that I held a brush was when I was about sixteen years of age.” After that time, as there were no academies or classes he might attend, he began copying prints, and “making likenesses of all who would consent to sit” for him. He remembered the first “useful thing [he] did was to paint a portrait of [the family’s] butcher,” thereby helping to provide some meat for his poor family. He later wrote that despite his family’s initial opposition, “when once my artistic vocation [as a painter] was made clear to me, I never hesitated a moment, I never looked back.”
Another influence on Healy’s artistic development was that of the Stuart family. Before his marriage to Mary Hicks, William Healy had had his portrait painted by the illustrious American portrait painter, Gilbert Stuart (1755-1828). George Healy also had contact with the Stuarts. Gilbert Stuart’s daughter, Jane (1812-1888), an artist, and a contemporary of George’s, took an interest in his artistic progress. She lent him a print of Guido Reni’s Ecce Homo to copy. Healy’s copy of the print was sold by a bookseller to a Catholic priest for ten dollars and constituted one of Healy’s first sales. Miss Stuart introduced him to the portrait painter, Thomas Sully (1783-1872), of Philadelphia in 1831. At the time, Sully was in Boston finishing a portrait of Col. Perkins, which the late Stuart had begun for the Boston Athenaeum. Upon seeing Healy’s copy of one of Stuart’s portraits, and a work from nature, Sully advised Healy to become a painter. Later, Healy recalled this as his “first serious encouragement” to pursue painting as a career.
Thus encouraged, Healy recalled arranging for a “painting-room” in the home of merchant Richard Tucker in the fall of 1831. Healy traded his landlord rent for portraits of his son, Charles Tucker, and son-in-law, John Henry Gray. Healy remembered these two portraits as the first he exhibited, and that they “attracted some attention.”
Healy first exhibited at the annual exhibition of the Boston Athenaeum in the spring of 1832. The exhibition was held from May 14 through September 1. He probably exhibited four portraits: Portrait of a Lady; Portrait; G. Flagg; and Portrait of a Boy. G. Flagg was a fellow artist, who also exhibited several works at the Athenaeum in 1832. The two paintings identified as, Portrait, and Portrait of a Boy were probably the portraits of Healy’s landlord’s family, John Henry Gray and Charles Tucker, as mentioned above. Another portrait painted by the artist in 1832 was that of Moses Pond (1799-1870) (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY).
George was not the only member of the family to show his work at the Boston Athenaeum in 1832. His younger brother, Thomas Cantwell, also exhibited a picture, Jael and Sisera, identified in the catalogue as, by and owned by “T.C. Healey, a lad 11 yrs. of age.” Another brother—who did not exhibit at the Athenaeum in 1832—John Reynolds, was apparently also an artist.
Healy recalled that around the time of the exhibition in 1832, he was painting a portrait of Lieutenant Gershom J.Van Brunt and expressed to his sitter his desire to paint a woman’s portrait, having never done so apart from family members. Van Brunt suggested the artist ask Mrs. Harrison Gray Otis (Elizabeth Henderson Boardman) (1796-1873), a young widow, and the Mayor’s daughter-in-law, to sit for a portrait. She consented, and the shy Healy “audaciously” painted her laughing. Healy recalled, “from that time ‘Little Healy,’ as people called me, became known.” Afterwards, he recalled that he was able to pay his rent, other expenses and also to “help toward the support of my family.”
In 1833, Healy was listed in Stimpson’s Boston Directory, as a “portrait painter,” at 13 School Street. Portraits painted by him around this time included that of David Henshaw, a politician, Father Taylor, a family friend (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston), and Samuel Dorr (1774-1844), a merchant  (Boston Athenaeum, Boston). He exhibited one portrait at the Boston Athenaeum in 1833, that of the Right Rev. Bishop Fenwick. Despite early successes, Healy later recalled:
“I was, however, quite aware that, in spite of great natural facility, I had still everything to learn. I had had no master; what I knew I had acquired by dint of hard work, with the occasional advice of some older artist, but with no serious training. My one object was to become a student in a regular art school. But this could only be accomplished after I had scraped together not only money enough to take me to Europe and to help toward my support there, but to leave a sufficient sum with my mother to support her for a year or two, until I should be able to earn something on the other side of the big ocean.”
After accumulating “a handsome sum of money” to leave with his mother, and one thousand dollars for himself, Healy sailed for France in April of 1834, on the Sully. He later recalled the last portraits he painted in Boston before departing for Europe were of the Appleton Sisters, Mary (later, Mrs. MacIntosh), and Frances (later, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s second wife) (both, The Longfellow House, Cambridge, MA). Before departing from the port of New York on the Sully, Healy met with the artist and inventor, Samuel Finley Breese Morse (1791-1872), apparently to get a letter of introduction to the Marquis de Lafayette, who was in Paris.
Healy never saw his parents again. In the month after George sailed for France, his father died of consumption on May 5, 1834. He was 50 years old, and was buried on May 6 in the “South Boston Cemetery, R.C.”  His mother died two years later. While abroad, during the month of May in 1834, several of Healy’s paintings—all privately owned by others—were exhibited in Boston, including A Portrait of a Lady, at Harding’s Gallery, and four at the Boston Athenaeum’s eighth annual exhibition, including Mrs. Boyden, Mr. Homer, Portrait, and G.L. Brown.
Upon his arrival in Paris, Healy was unable to see the ailing Marquis de Lafayette, who died on May 20, 1834. He was also unable to see his Boston patron, Mrs. Otis, who, together with her two sons, had recently left Paris for Switzerland. Healy enrolled in the studio of the French history painter, Baron Antoine Jean Gros (1771-1835). His study with Gros was to be his only period of “extended training under a teacher,” as his granddaughter, Marie de Mare, later wrote of her grandfather in her biography of him.
At Baron Gros’s studio, Healy met the French painter, Thomas Couture (1815-1879). As Healy stated, Couture became “one of my best and dearest friends.” Healy also met the student, Oliver Frazer (1808-1864), a painter from Kentucky in Gros’s studio. Interestingly, in his History of the Rise and Progress of the Arts of Design in the United States, first published in 1834, William Dunlap refers to the young Healy as the teacher of the slightly older Oliver Frazer.
Copying old master paintings was considered part of a nineteenth century artist’s education, and Healy spent much time doing so. While copying Correggio’s Mystical Marriage of Saint Catherine, at the Louvre in 1834, an English couple stopped to chat. Not long after, on a trip to Italy that autumn, he again encountered the couple, at a stage-coach stop at Alexandria. They introduced themselves as Sir Arthur and Lady Faulkner and were to become Healy’s friends and patrons. They had learned of George Healy from their friend, Mrs. Otis, in Switzerland, and invited him to tour Italy with them. Together the three visited Turin, Genoa, Siena, Florence, Rome and Naples. They spent five weeks in Florence, where Healy made copies of Titian’s Venus, and other paintings. The Faulkners invited Healy to visit them in London at some point.
After his tour of Italy, Healy spent two months in Geneva, Switzerland. There he painted many portraits of Englishmen, and of Mrs. Otis and her family. Before Healy’s return to Paris in July of 1835, Baron Gros had committed suicide, on June 25, 1835. Healy took a studio in Paris, encouraged to do so by a new friend, Edme Savinien Dubourjal (1795-1865), a miniature painter. Healy gave painting lessons, painted portraits, painted from life in the evenings and copied paintings in the Louvre.
Healy was interested in selling his copies of paintings. Earlier, during the spring of 1835, three had been exhibited and listed for sale at the ninth annual exhibition of paintings at the Boston Athenaeum. They were, The Marriage at Cana, Head of our Saviour, after Guido, and Prince of Orange Going out in the Morning, from Cuyp. Other copies of paintings made by Healy in 1835 included, a Study from Paul Veronese, The Entombment from Titian, and A copy from Velasquies (sic), Infanta of Spain.
During the winter of 1835-1836, Healy’s mother became ill, but she apparently did not mention her illness to him. In his letters to her during this time, he told of a group portrait of Mr. James John Cox (of Philadelphia), his Children and his Sister, (Mrs. Sitgreaves), which he was painting, and he sent one of his Italian sketches to his sister, Agnes, for her birthday in January of 1836. His mother wrote him, “we hope you will have many commissions in England, but not so many that you cannot return to us by next summer.” Unfortunately his mother did not live to see the next summer. She died of consumption on February 13, 1836, and was buried on February 16 in the “South Burial Ground, no. 50” in Boston. She was 38 years old when she died.
In the next month, Healy exhibited for the first time at the annual Paris Salon, which opened at the Musée Royal, on March 1, 1836. Back in Boston, at almost the same time, four of his paintings were exhibited at the Athenaeum, that of S. Grosvenor, Costume the Taste of the Artist, H.G. Otis, Jr., Titian’s Daughter, and for a second time, Prince of Orange Going out in the Morning, From Cuyp. In 1836 Healy apparently also made another copy of a painting by Titian, in addition to “a study from the daughter of my landlady.”
Healy recalled that his first visit to London was in the spring of 1836. He was invited by his friends, Sir Arthur and Lady Faulkner, to paint their portraits. In London Healy saw the ‘last exhibition ever held in Somerset House.” Through the Faulkners, Healy was given the opportunity to paint a portrait of the English reformer, Francis Place (1771-1854). Place was to prove a friend to Healy in the next year.
Beginning in the summer of 1836 Healy went on a sketching tour of Switzerland and France with two French artists. Before that time, Healy had written to Francis Place from Paris, expressing his desire to, “make one more effort in London,” and asking Place if the English historian, Joseph Hume (1777-1855)—who had liked Healy’s portrait of Place— could be persuaded to have his own portrait painted. While in France on the sketching trip, the artist received word from Place of Hume’s agreement and Healy returned to London to execute the work in January and stayed in the city the remainder of the year.
He rented a painting room at 28 Grafton Street, Fitzroy Square,  and presented himself to Hume on the twenty-second to fulfill his portrait commission. Healy later recalled, “this was the beginning of my real career as an artist.” Francis Place again showed his friendship during the summer of 1837. Healy told him he had “not a pound in the world to bless myself,” and Place gave him twenty pounds, and promised 200 more if needed. According to Marie de Mare, this “marked the turning point of Healy’s fortunes.” Healy invited his friend and fellow artist, Edme Savinien Dubourjal to join him in London, as there was much work available for both painters. Dubourjal took a painting room “on the same floor as George’s.” By the end of the year, the two painters had become “socially popular,” according to de Mare. Besides being a professionally important time in Healy’s life, it was also a personally important time, for, as he later recalled, “It was while I was at work in London that I first met my wife.” He met his future spouse, Louisa Phipps, through an introduction by Andrew Stevenson, American minister to France, to James Hanley, an American inventor, whose English wife was Louisa’s sister. Dubourjal painted a watercolor of Louisa, and, at some point, Healy and Dubourjal were invited to Mr. and Mrs. Phipps’ home where they heard Louisa sing.
While living in London, Healy exhibited one portrait, Portraits de famille, at the Paris Salon of 1837. Two of his paintings were exhibited at the Boston Athenaeum in 1837: one, of M. Valpeau, Professor of Surgery in the Medical School, Paris, the other, of G.[Gabriel] Andral, Professor of the Medical School, Paris (1797-1876). Two other paintings by Healy dated 1837 are, Girl with Pitcher, a study “completed in four hours,” and, Alexander Van Rensselaer (1814-1878) (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY).
In late 1837, Healy may have begun painting the naturalist, John James Audubon (1785-1851) (Museum of Science, Science Park, Boston), who was visiting in London. Healy sought him out, hoping to paint his portrait, and Audubon agreed to sit. To Audubon, Healy revealed his love for an “English girl.” Healy’s portrait, which shows the artist/naturalist seated holding a rifle in his left hand and resting his face against his right hand, was finished early in 1838, in time to be exhibited at the Royal Academy, at the annual spring exhibition. Thomas Sully, in London in March of 1838 on a commission from the “St. George Society” to paint Queen Victoria’s portrait, called upon Healy, and seeing his portrait of Audubon, told Healy, “you have no reason to regret having followed the advice I gave you [to make painting your profession] some years ago.”
On February 8, 1838, Healy wrote from London, to his friend and fellow artist, Francis Alexander, in Boston, to thank him for “the remarkably clever painted head of my sweet sister Agnes,” and to tell Alexander the current and past year’s state of his affairs. He said that at the Countess of Essex’s request, he had recently, on New Year’s Day, delivered a letter and his “little picture” of her to the Duke of Sutherland. Healy had told the Duke he planned to stay in London for three years, and “might become a student at the Royal Academy where [he] had the friendship of Wilkie and Leslie.”
Healy mentioned in this letter to Alexander, that he had painted [John A.] Braham, a singer, and that Lady Agnes Buller wanted him to paint “some friends” in the spring. In a postscript, Healy revealed he had become a student at the British Academy and had received a favorable notice for a picture on exhibition:
“P.S. My dear Friend, Since I wrote the foregoing three pages, some things have changed. Lady Essex is dead. Her Ladyship has left the picture I painted for her to the Duke of Sutherland. My drawing from the Antique has admitted me as a student of the Academy; my picture of a Jew has got a good place in the British Institution; the following is an extract from the Morning Herald: ‘No. 91. Study of a Jew by Healy, painted with a firm, free pencil, the tone and color good.’ This is the first public mention of my name in England. Sully and Osgood have pictures in the same exhibition.”
In May, 1838, Healy exhibited six portraits at the annual exhibition of the Royal Academy, but none at the Boston Athenaeum, nor at the Paris Salon. One portrait by his brother, Thomas Cantwell, however was exhibited at the Paris Salon of that year. At Healy’s invitation, his brother, Thomas Cantwell had come to Paris. He lived there for about a year before returning home to Lowell, Massachusetts, sometime in the latter half of 1839.
According to Marie de Mare, Healy and Dubourjal attended a ceremony on May 24, 1838—Queen’s Victoria’s birthday—to launch the steamship, British Queen. There, Andrew Stevenson, American Minister to England (1836-1841), introduced Healy to General Lewis Cass, Minister to the Court of France (1836-1842). Stevenson asked Healy to paint a portrait of the Frenchman, Marshal Nicolas Jean de Dieu Soult, Duke of Dalmatia (1769-1851), who was to represent King Louis Philippe at the Queen’s coronation at Westminster in June. The Stevensons gave Healy admission tickets to the coronation ceremony, but instead, Healy accepted an invitation, received on June 27 from Lady Agnes Buller to attend the ceremony on June 28.
After the Coronation, Healy visited Antwerp to paint copies of old master paintings, including works by Rembrandt, and Rubens. He planned to spend ten days, but increased the duration of his trip to six weeks. During his travels, Healy wrote to General Cass, inquiring how he might obtain a sitting for a portrait of Marshal Soult for Andrew Stevenson. According to one source, Cass replied, “Come to Paris, and I will do what I can to induce the Marshal to sit for you; in the meantime, I wish you to paint myself and family, for, although young in years, your fame has reached me.” Healy apparently returned to Paris to begin painting Cass (Detroit Historical Museum) the day after he received his letter. While painting Cass, his sitter informed Healy he would like him to paint Louis Philippe, King of the French.
Healy later recalled that, after Louis Philippe saw Healy’s portrait of Cass at the Paris Salon exhibition of 1839,  and learned from Cass that Healy was at the time in London, the King told Cass that, “…if he will come to Paris, I am willing to sit to him.” Healy remembered, “naturally [he] was soon at his Majesty’s orders” to paint the King’s portrait for General Cass. According to de Mare, Healy received this letter from Cass in July 1839. Healy recalled that Cass, “presented me to the King, and remained during the whole of the first sitting.” During that sitting, when Healy advanced towards the King with a steel “compass” to measure his face, a courtier, thinking he meant harm, pushed him aside. Healy wrote that the King smiled, and said, “Mr. Healy is a republican, it is true, but he is an American. I am quite safe with him.”
According to Marie de Mare, before returning to Paris to paint Louis Philippe’s portrait, Healy and Louisa Phipps were married. Louisa, who was Protestant at the time, refused to be married in a Catholic Church, so the couple was married in Saint Pancras Parish Church, on Euston Road, in the County of Middlesex, England on July 23, 1839. James and Mary Ann Hanley—Louisa’s brother-in-law and sister—stood as witnesses. After the wedding the couple traveled to Paris, and lived in one room, attached to a painting room, on the “rue de l’Ouest, now Rue d’Assas, near the Luxembourg Gardens,” for “nearly a year.”
Afterwards, they moved to “a rather better place …on the other side of the river.” In his autobiography, Healy wrote that in the early years of their marriage there were great contrasts between their own modest lifestyle and that of the affluent lifestyles of his sitters. In spite of much time spent apart over the years—as Healy traveled and worked on commissions—theirs was a felicitous marriage of mutual devotion and loyalty. According to Healy’s daughter, Mary Bigot: “[my] parents were lovers, even in old age.”
In 1839, besides painting Louis Philippe for General Cass, Healy painted portraits of Andrew Stevenson (1784-1857) Minister to Great Britain (Virginia Historical Society), his wife, Sarah Coles Stevenson (1789-1848) (Virginia Historical Society), Mrs. Benjamin James Adams (Caroline Throckmorton), and Mrs. Cass (unlocated: copy, 1860, Detroit Historical Museum). Healy’s portrait of Mrs. Cass was viewed with favor by the French Queen at the Palais des Tuileries in November. M. Delort, Aide-de-Camp to the King, wrote to General Cass on November 14, 1839:
“The Queen has seen the portrait of Mrs. Cass. Her Majesty has deigned to give me the agreeable task of telling you that she was pleased with this lovely work, which does credit to the young artist, Mr. Healy, who is the author of it …. P.S. Please be so kind as to let Mr. Healy know that he may collect Mrs. Cass’ portrait.”
In February 1840, the Healys went to London, where their first child, Arthur Faulkner was born in March. He was named after Sir Arthur Faulkner, who, together with his wife, “promised to stand as godparents.” Healy returned to Paris, leaving his wife with her mother, Mrs. Phipps. In the same month, March, Marshal Soult was out of office— replaced by Louis Adolphe Thiers (1797-1877) as minister of foreign affairs—and thus available to have his portrait painted by Healy for Andrew Stevenson. Healy’s portrait of Marshal Soult (full-length sketch, Columbus Museum of Art, OH), was finished in time to be exhibited at the Royal Academy in March, 1840, together with a portrait of the founder of the Boston Public Library, Joshua Bates (1788-1864), and another portrait.
Healy’s painting of Mrs. Cass was shown at the Paris Salon of 1840. For it, the artist won his first Salon prize, a third class medal, from the King. Healy wrote in his Reminiscences that it was “the first public recompense accorded” to him. Sometime after the Paris Salon of 1840, King Louis Philippe made arrangements for Healy to copy English paintings at Windsor Castle. In England, Sir Arthur Faulkner—who was the physician to the Duke of Sussex—arranged for the Duke to sit for his portrait. Mrs. Andrew Stevenson, too, helped arrange for the sitting. On June 25, 1840, she wrote to the Duchess of Inverness (the Duke’s wife) to ask for patronage for Healy:
“I have just seen Mr. Healy, a young American Artist, who tells me His Royal Highness has kindly promised Sir … Faulkner to see him some day soon, and permit him to take with him some of his pictures. He is a young artist of great promise and merit, and at some future day, may become the Lawrence of America …. May I ask your Grace’s kind and benevolent patronage for my young countryman, who is, I assure you, most worthy of it …”
At some point, Sussex sat for Healy. As Queen Victoria’s uncle, he was a sitter of consequence. Healy later recalled that, “events seemed about to shape my career into that of an English artist,” and that his portrait of the Duke, was “successful, and brought [him] various commissions and some notice.” He worked on portraits of Lord and Lady Waldegrave, who invited him and his wife on an outing to their country seat, Strawberry Hill. Other of Healy’s many English commissions included portraits of General Charles Richard Fox, a group portrait of the children of Tyrone Power, the actor, Lady Agnes Buller, and the Master of Grant, among others.
By 1841, with many portrait commissions in England and France, and his work on display in Boston, London and Paris, Healy was a vital and important member of the American artist colony in Paris. He extended assistance to fellow American painters in that city, including, Robert Cooke (c.1810-c.1843), James De Veaux (1812-1844), Benjamin Champney (1817-1907), and William Morris Hunt (1824-1879). Healy, possibly his wife Louisa, and a number of American artists, are depicted in the painting, A Studio Reception, Paris, 1841 (Albany Institute of History and Art, New York), by Thomas Pritchard Rossiter. Another representation of the twenty-eight year old painter, during this time, is a self portrait (Redwood Library and Athenaeum, Newport, RI).
Possibly in May or early June of 1841, Healy traveled with his wife and small son to Paris from London. In a letter written on June 7 to Mrs. Atkinson, from Paris, Rue St. Lazare 50, he mentioned his family’s “pleasant passage” to Paris by way of Havre, and that they had “not yet changed [their] residence.” In the same letter, Healy wrote that, “Guizot gave me a sitting the other day and is to sit in the morning.” The sitter Healy referred to in his letter was, Francois Pierre Guillaume Guizot (1787-1874) (full-length portrait, 94” x 56”, 1841, National Museum of American Art); (full-length 32 ½” x 21”, Santa Barbara Museum of Art, CA), the French Minister of Foreign Affairs at the time, and successor to Louis-Adolphe Thiers. As was his custom, Healy painted a smaller study version of the painting, for his own use. In 1839, Guizot had written a biographical introduction to the French edition of Jared Sparks’ Life of Washington, originally published in Boston between 1834 and 1837. A group of Americans fans commissioned Healy to paint Guizot’s portrait for presentation to President John Tyler, “as a gift to the nation.” At the National Institute for the Promotion of Science, Washington, D.C., Guizot’s portrait was fittingly hung beside a full-length portrait of George Washington.
Louis Philippe (1773-1850), King of the French, came to power after the revolution in France of July 1830 ended the reign of Charles X. Louis Philippe’s reign, known as the July Monarchy, lasted from 1830 until his forced abdication in February of 1848, after yet another revolution. The King spoke fluent English, for prior to his reign he had lived as an exile in England, and, from c.1796 to 1799, in the United States, together with his two brothers. In the United States he had visited Louisiana, and had lived in Boston, where he taught French. In Philadelphia, he met Gilbert Stuart, who was at work on a portrait of George Washington. The King had also visited General and Mrs. Washington at Mount Vernon. Louis Philippe was interested in the ideas of democracy, and had decided in 1833 to make the former royal residence, Versailles, a museum dedicated to “all the glories of France,” and to include a series of portraits of French or foreign princes, artists, academicians, soldiers, etc.
In his Reminiscences, Healy recalled one morning, probably in February of 1842, Louis Philippe sent for him. The King told Healy that he, the King, had been seen,
“in good company last night, at the grand ball given by General Cass to commemorate the birthday of General Washington, hanging, as I did, between the portraits of that great man and M. Guizot.”
When asked, Healy told the King that he had painted his copy of George Washington, for Cass, “from an engraving in the life written by Sparks.” The King then commissioned Healy to copy Stuart’s original portrait of Washington for his “historical gallery at Versailles.” With this commission, Healy returned to the United States in April of 1842; his first return since leaving eight years earlier, in 1834.
He traveled alone, probably because a second child, Agnes—named after his sister—was born in London, on February 16, 1842. Before departing for the United States on the Caledonia, Healy visited Edward Everett (1794-1865), Andrew Stevenson’s successor to the position of United States minister to Great Britain (1841-1845), with a message from General Cass asking Everett to introduce the artist to Everett’s friends in the U.S. Everett agreed, and wrote to his sister on April 16, telling her about Healy’s commission from the King to paint a copy of Washington’s portrait “in the President’s house” for Versailles. Healy painted a portrait of Everett’s daughter, Charlotte Everett, and at some point, a portrait of Edward Everett (Newberry Library, Chicago).
The year 1842 was a watershed year for Healy. Family events that year included the birth of his second child, Agnes, in London, as mentioned above, and the death of his brother, John Reynolds in Lowell, Massachusetts. Healy also received a commission from American subscribers to paint a life portrait of President John Tyler. Healy’s two presidential portraits painted in 1842—a copy of the first president, and a life portrait of the tenth president, then in office—were to be the first of many presidential portraits he would paint during his career. Arriving in Boston on May 5, 1842, he viewed four of his works including the life portrait of Audubon “by gas light,” at the Boston Athenaeum where it had been sent the previous year.
While yet in Boston, Healy visited his brother Thomas Cantwell, his patron and friend, Mrs. Otis—who invited him to stay at her home—the Tucker family, and the artist, Washington Allston (1779-1843). After Boston, Healy stopped in New York, where one of his paintings was on exhibition at the National Academy of Design. Afterwards, he traveled to Philadelphia, where he visited Thomas Sully. In Baltimore, Healy visited his sister, Agnes. By May 18, Healy had reached his destination, Washington.
He was still in Washington at the end of May when he received a letter written on behalf of subscribers who were members of the National Institution, requesting portraits of the President of the United States and of William Campbell Preston, for the National Institution’s gallery. On June 7, Healy wrote to a friend he had his copy of George Washington, “nearly finished and [had] promised the King that [he] would finish the head from the original in Boston.” He also wrote that he was “engaged to complete [his] whole length of the King for that show of modern pictures,” and that his portrait of Guizot, painted the previous year, had “reached the city.” A highly appreciative article about the Guizot painting, its painter, and patron, appeared in a Washington newspaper in June.
As requested, Healy painted President Tyler (1842, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC; 1859, National Portrait Gallery, Washington, DC; White House, Washington, DC), and additionally, two of the President’s daughters, Alice and Elizabeth. Also, as requested, the artist painted a portrait of William Campbell Preston (1794-1850) (National Museum of American Art, Washington, DC), Senator from South Carolina. It is possible that during this time Healy painted companion portraits of Daniel Webster (January 18, 1782-October, 24, 1852), Secretary of State, and Lord Ashburton (copies of each, in the New York Historical Society, New York, NY). Webster and Ashburton were politically prominent in 1842, negotiating a treaty concerning boundaries between Canada and Maine, from April to August 9, 1842, at which time the Treaty of Washington, or, “Webster-Ashburton Treaty,” was signed.
Upon his return to London, Healy completed the copy of George Washington by Gilbert Stuart (full-length; Musée National du Château de Versailles, France). On November 1, 1842, he visited Edward Everett, in regard to the copy. After his visit, Everett wrote to the French Ambassador, “requesting him to claim the picture of Washington as the property of the King of France.” Sometime in 1842, Healy painted Euphemia White Van Rensselaer (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY), a young American woman visiting in Paris.
On February 19, 1843, Healy’s copy of Stuart’s portrait of George Washington, officially entered Louis Philippe’s art collection in Versailles. In the same month Healy was reported in a newspaper article to be painting portraits in New Orleans, where he may have spent time with his brother, Thomas Cantwell. While in the United States in 1843, Healy also worked in Boston where he painted portraits of the historian William Hickling Prescott (1796-1859), after asking him to sit, and a Boston merchant, Thomas B. Wales. He also painted a double portrait for Wales, one of four paintings by Healy exhibited at the Boston Athenaeum in 1843. In London, a family portrait, Happy Moments, was exhibited at the Royal Academy.
In 1843 Healy copied English portraits for Louis Philippe at Windsor and at Buckingham Palace. According to a letter written by Healy on October 7, 1843, to King, the artist, Louis Philippe was so pleased with Healy’s copy of Washington that he commissioned him to return to the United States in April to “copy portraits of our distinguished Revolutionary characters for the same gallery.”  Healy added that he would have to travel alone because before then his family would have increased again. On December 8, 1843, their third child, Mary, was born in Paris.
Healy may have worked in the United States in 1844 from April until July, at which time Dubourjal joined him. It is possible that Healy attended exhibitions of his portraits in Boston and New York. In Boston, three portraits, including one of Lord Ashburton, were exhibited at the third exhibition of the Boston Artists’ Association at Harding’s Gallery, and four pictures were exhibited at the Boston Athenaeum, including one of Marshal Soult. In New York, one portrait was exhibited at the National Academy of Design. As was not unusual for Healy by this time, his works were on exhibition in the same year in the United States, and in Europe. In 1844, eight paintings by Healy were exhibited at the Paris Salon and five at the Royal Academy, including portraits of Lord Ashburton, Andrew Stevenson, and His Majesty Louis Philippe.
In July of 1844, Healy may have been back in England, copying portraits at Windsor Castle, including a portrait of William IV, King of England (1765-1837), for Louis-Philippe’s gallery. On August 17, 1844, twelve copies of English portraits by Healy entered into the Versailles collection. Healy apparently continued painting copies of portraits for Versailles from July of 1844 to February of the following year, for on February 7, 1845, eleven more of his copies of English portraits formally entered Louis Philippe’s Versailles Gallery.
Sometime in 1845, the Healy family moved from Paris to Versailles. Louisa’s recently widowed mother, Mrs. Phipps, moved with them. At the Paris Salon, which opened on March 15, 1845, at the Musée Royal, three portraits by Healy, including one of Louis Philippe, were exhibited. Upon hearing the former president Andrew Jackson (1767-1845) was seriously ill, the king sent Healy to the United States to paint Jackson’s portrait, and the portraits of other American statesmen, in the spring of 1845. Healy arrived at Jackson’s home, at the Hermitage in Tennessee, in time to paint two portraits of Jackson (Jackson family; Musée national du Château de Versailles, France; replica, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC), and one full-length portrait of Mrs. Jackson, Jr. Jackson was reported to have commented that he considered Healy’s portrait of him “the most perfect representation I have ever seen.” Healy witnessed General Jackson’s death on June 8, 1845.
Healy next went to Ashland, Kentucky, to the home of American statesman, Henry Clay (1777-1852) to paint his portrait. He dated each of two Clay portraits, July 26, 1845 (Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, VA; Musée national du Château de Versailles, France). While at Ashland, Oliver Frazer—who had studied with Healy in 1834 in Paris, and who was now visiting Ashland—invited Healy to stay with him and to use his studio in Lexington. While a guest of Frazer’s, Healy painted portraits of Mrs. Frazer and of Mrs. Matthew H. Jouett, widow of the painter. Before traveling to Boston to paint a portrait of John Quincy Adams, Healy received portrait commissions in Louisville, Kentucky. At some point in 1845, before or after painting Clay’s portrait, Healy apparently worked in New Orleans with this brother, Thomas.
Friend Edme Savinien Dubourjal was in Boston, and had prepared a studio for Healy before his arrival in that city. On or by September 3, John Quincy Adams gave Healy his first sitting (Musée national du Château de Versailles, France). On September 23, 1845, Healy wrote to his wife that the Adams portrait was finished. Adams’ impression of his portrait changed over the course of a month. At first he wrote, “Healy’s is such a picture of naked nature that I cannot look at it without shame….” But Adams grew to appreciate it, and later wrote, “Mr. Healy’s picture is the strongest likeness of me that ever was painted.” While in Boston, Healy also painted other portraits, including those of James T. Field and of the author, George Ticknor Curtis (1791-1871).
In October and November of 1845, Healy worked on three portrait commissions of Daniel Webster for Louis Philippe (Musée national du Château de Versailles, France), for Lord Ashburton, and for the Hone Club, New York (National Portrait Gallery, Washington, DC). On October 3,  and November 7, 1845, Healy was in Marshfield, Massachusetts, painting portraits at Webster’s home. On November 12, 1845, Philip Hone and two friends met with Healy in Boston about the portrait of Webster, commissioned by the fifteen members of the one Club. Healy showed them a sketch of Webster under the “Marshfield Tree,” expressed his pleasure with the “job” and conveyed the information that Webster too was “not displeased” to be the subject. Healy’s portrait of Webster arrived at the Hone Club, from Washington, at the end of April, 1846.
Healy’s fourth child, George, was born, possibly early in 1846, in Versailles, while Healy was in the United States. On January 11, 1846, Healy and Dubourjal traveled from Philadelphia to Baltimore. On January 15, in Washington, President Polk first sat for Healy. Polk’s final sitting in 1846 was on April 6 (Musée national du Château de Versailles, France; Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC; James K. Polk Memorial Association, Columbia, TN). During the last sitting, Dubourjal also painted a watercolor of the President. At some point in 1846, Healy also painted Mrs. Polk’s portrait (James K. Polk Memorial Association, Columbia, TN). In the middle of the year, Healy painted portraits, for Louis Philippe, of Vice-President John Caldwell Calhoun (1782-1850) on June 11, and Daniel Webster on July 19, 1846. In addition to the above, Healy painted George Perkins Marsh (Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH), and a full-length portrait of Nathan Appleton (1779-1861) (City of Lowell, MA).
Healy returned to France from the United States sometime before October of 1846. On October 10, eighteen portraits of Americans by Healy entered Louis Philippe’s gallery at Versailles. Of these, twelve were copies, and six were from life—the first life portraits by Healy to enter Versailles. Of the eighteen, six were of presidents.
Healy recalled that while in the United States he first had the idea for his historical group portrait representing the The Hon. Daniel Webster Replying to Hon. Robert Y. Hayne in the U.S. Senate, Jan. 26 and 27, 1830 (Faneuil Hall, Boston, MA; sketch, destroyed, Chicago fire, 1871), which was completed in 1851. He wrote:
“while executing the orders of my royal patron, my work brought me in contact with the most celebrated of our public men. It was then that I first conceived the idea of grouping them together in a large historical picture. I chose as my subject ‘Webster Replying to Hayne’.”
In October 1846 Louis Philippe gave permission to Healy to return to the United States to work on Webster Replying to Hayne. Probably around this time the King also approved the idea for another historical composition which Healy proposed, that of Franklin Pleading the Cause of the American Colonies before Louis XVI (destroyed in Chicago Fire of 1871). While at Versailles Healy made a sketch (American Philosophical Society, Philadelphia, PA) of Franklin before Louis XVI. To aid in painting the picture, the King had documents relating to the historic event made available to Healy. In the end, however, neither picture entered the King’s collection, for his reign ended in 1848, before they were completed.
On October 20, 1846, Healy was once again bound for the United States, this time with his wife, Louisa—for whom it was a first trip to America—via the Britania. Their four children remained in Versailles with Mrs. Phipps. The couple had planned to be in the United States or about a year, but stayed a few months longer, until June of 1848. The extended stay was probably due to the birth of their fifth child.
The Healys were in New York in April of 1847, where they met Louisa’s sister, brother-in-law, James Hanley, and niece, Emily. Although works by Healy were not exhibited at the National Academy of Design in 1847, he did apparently visit the exhibition. After New York, the Healy’s traveled to Washington, stopping to visit the Sullys in Philadelphia, and Healy’s sister, Agnes, in Baltimore. They then returned north to Boston, where Louisa met Mrs. Otis, Daniel Webster, and others. Webster introduced Healy to Charles Goodyear, whose portrait Healy later painted. In Boston Healy painted a portrait of the writer, Nathanial Hawthorne (New Hampshire Historical Society, Concord, NH), commissioned by the author’s friend, Franklin Pierce. Healy also recalled painting Ticknor’s portrait for the Webster Replying to Hayne, in the same year he painted Hawthorne. Healy wrote to Henry Wheaton on July 24, 1847, from Boston to say that he had received a commission to paint Wheaton’s portrait, which he would be able to do after September 1. Healy had “engagements” in Newport, and planned to spend the month of August there with his wife.
Healy continued accumulating individual portraits for his Webster Replying to Hayne. On his behalf, Daniel Webster wrote to Samuel Bell on October 7, and to Joseph Gales, on November 23, 1847, to let each man know that Healy was interested in adding his portrait to his Webster Replying to Hayne. Webster wrote that Healy would apply to Gales for a sitting when the artist arrived in Washington in “about a month hence.” In Washington, on January 30, 1848, Edith, the Healy’s fifth child, was born. Shortly after this, in February, the couple learned that their royal patron, Louis-Philippe, had abdicated the throne. The artist later wrote this “ended [Healy’s] fortune in France.” He also wrote that, although his English connections, too, were lost by that time, he had made “staunch” friends among his sitters in the United States. In the spring, two portraits by Healy were exhibited at the Boston Athenaeum, one of which was a portrait of Louis Philippe.
The Healys traveled back to Versailles in June of 1848, but not long after, George returned alone to the United States. In November of 1848 he had a last sitting from Daniel Webster (bust, Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, VA; full-length, Union League Club of Chicago), in Marshfield, Massachusetts. Healy made plans to be in Providence at the end of December, to paint portraits of Mrs. Amory and Mrs. Duncan.
By March of 1849 a “four foot long” finished study of Healy’s Webster Replying to Hayne was in existence. In a letter written on April 18, 1849, Healy expressed his intentions to spend two years painting the work in Paris. In June Healy returned to Paris, as per his plan. While there, Healy began a correspondence with the sculptor, Hiram Powers (1805-1873). On November 11, 1849, Healy wrote Powers asking him for daguerreotypes of Powers’ busts of Calhoun, Judge Burnet and “any others who were in the Senate during the year 1830.” On April 17, 1850, Healy wrote Powers, thanking him for sending five daguerreotypes. Powers’ images were of men ten to thirteen years younger than Healy’s, and thus more likely to show them as they appeared around 1839, the time of Healy’s historical portrait.
Beginning on December 30, 1850, eight portraits by Healy were exhibited at the Paris Salon, including one of the deposed Louis Philippe, and one of John C. Calhoun. Earlier, Healy had received a commission from the Common Council of Charleston to paint a full-length portrait of Calhoun. A portrait of Calhoun by the artist was also exhibited at the Royal Academy, London, in the spring of 1851.
Sadness was known in the Healy household at the end of 1850. Both sons died: first George, the youngest, of scarlet fever, then Arthur. The eleven year old Arthur Faulkner died on November 4, after a fall at school in Paris. He was the eldest Healy child, and had shown promise as an artist. At some point the family appears to have moved back to Versailles, where another daughter, Maria, was born on July 1, 1851.
Healy continued working on Webster Replying to Hayne, and planning for its exhibition in Boston in the fall of 1851. On February 16, Healy wrote Hiram Powers that he was “now painting the figures in the gallery.” In a letter to Daniel Webster, dated April 29, from Paris, Healy discussed his plans for the painting. He wrote that his “great work will be finished in time to be publicly seen in Boston, about the first of September next.” He expressed hope that Faneuil Hall, where the picture was destined, could be lent to him for its exhibition, and asked Webster to present a letter with this request for the Hall to the City of Boston.
The large, historical painting, Webster Replying to Hayne (16 x 30 feet), first conceived by Healy in 1844, was completed seven years later in Paris, in 1851. The scene depicts the constitutional debate in the Senate in 1830, when the orator, Senator Daniel Webster replied to Senator Robert Hayne with the words in favor of federation, “Liberty and union, one and inseparable, now and forever.” The work includes 130 individual portraits, in addition to a portrait of Louis Philippe, in an oval frame attached to the balcony. The people represented in the painting include both those who did as well as others who did not actually attend the debate in 1830. Hiram Powers, for example, did not attend the debate, but is represented.
Webster Replying to Hayne was exhibited in the United States for a little over a year. Its first showing was at the Boston Athenaeum, from September to October, 1851. A brochure accompanied the exhibition. Daniel Webster apparently viewed the painting with Healy at the Athenaeum in 1851. The picture was reported to be the largest ever exhibited in this country. Mention was also made of Healy’s intention for the painting to be exhibited in “all [the] principal cities.” After Boston, the painting traveled to the National Academy of Design, in New York, and to the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia. In 1852, the city of Boston granted Healy’s petition to allow Webster Replying to Hayne to be exhibited at Faneuil Hall. The painting was on display there from June through the end of the year. By year’s end, it had been purchased by subscription and the Boston Common Council for the City of Boston.
After a short interlude in France at the beginning of 1852, Healy returned to the United States in May. Louisa accompanied her husband for a second time. Once again, they left the children at home with Mrs. Phipps, and were away for about a year. Their first stop was Boston, where Healy painted a second portrait of Nathaniel Hawthorne, and portraits of Prescott, Longfellow, and others. Afterwards, Healy traveled to Providence, New York, Philadelphia and Washington. In addition to portrait commissions, he intended to see to the sale of the large historical painting, Webster Replying to Hayne. Another reason for the Healys’ trip to the United States in 1852 may have been the wedding of George’s only sister, Agnes. On October 28, she and Dr. Dyson were married in Baltimore, Maryland.
Healy painted Franklin Pierce’s portrait (The Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC) in November of 1852. In 1853, a portrait of Pierce, and three other paintings were exhibited at the Massachusetts Academy of Fine Arts, in Boston. Other portraits by the artist, including those of Louis Philippe, Guizot, Soult, Washington, and Cass, owned by others, were exhibited in February, in Detroit at the Firemen’s Hall. After spending time in Providence and then Washington, Mr. and Mrs. Healy sailed from New York in May 1853 for Versailles. A daughter, Emily, was born to them, on November 18, 1853, in Versailles. Not long after this, Healy again returned to the United States for a short trip.
In 1855, Healy painted a double portrait of his two oldest girls, Agnes and Mary (J. B. Speed Memorial Museum, Louisville, KY), and a portrait of Charles Goodyear (1800-1860), on rubber (Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC). Goodyear’s portrait was one of twenty paintings by the artist shown in 1855 at the Paris Salon/Universal Exposition. Among his works were portraits of Pierce, Soult, Webster, Goodyear and family, Piatt, Evans, the artist Rossiter—who had included Healy in a group portrait in 1842—and Jackson. Also included was Healy’s large historical painting, depicting French-American relations, Franklin before Louis XVI. The artist won a medal, second class, for this painting, and was granted the status, “hors concours,” whereby he was allowed to enter paintings in future Paris Salons, without prior approval from the jury.
In Paris, during the summer of 1855, Dr. Brainard introduced Healy to William Butler Ogden (1805-1877). Ogden, who had made his fortune in railroads, had served as Chicago’s first mayor in 1837. He sat for his portrait (unlocated; copy of 1855 portrait, c.1878, Chicago Historical Society, Chicago, IL), and persuaded Healy to visit him in Chicago. In the fall of 1855, Healy traveled to that city “for the first time.” There he stayed at the Ogden house—where Mr. and Mrs. Sheldon, sister and brother-in-law of William Ogden, were living. In his Reminiscences, Healy later recalled that among the first portraits he painted while in Chicago, was one Mr. Sheldon and two Children. Elsewhere, he counted the Brainards and I. A. Arnold among his first patrons. Healy later wrote that he only intended to stay “a month or six weeks,” but instead stayed fourteen years. No doubt there was ample opportunity in Chicago for portrait commissions. The small town on the prairie was in a period of great boom, the fastest growing city in the country in the 19th century and soon to become the country’s second largest city.
He remained a guest of Mr. Sheldon for a year. During his first year in Chicago, Healy painted numerous portraits. In the same year, 1855, the sculptor, Leonard Volk (1828-1895) adopted [Chicago] as his home.” About a dozen years later, these two artists were identified as having “taken the lead” among Chicago’s “few great artists.” Healy’s daughter, Mary, later recalled that, in Paris on the Rue de Ponthieu, near the Champs-Elysées, her mother read letters to her from her father. While Healy was in Chicago, his son, George Louis was born on December 29, 1855, in Paris. The following year, 1856, Louisa, her eighty-four year old mother, Mrs. Phipps, a nurse and the six children traveled to Chicago to join the artist. The family lived at the Ogden house at first, but moved to a wooden frame house in November. Healy’s working address was at the Exchange Bank buildings. As indicated by the Healy portraits in the Chicago Historical Society, over time the painter’s sitters included the city’s wealthy elite such as members of the Blair, McCagg, McCormick, Newberry, Ogden, Ryerson, Scammon, Wentworth, and Whitehead families. The Healys made many friends among George’s sitters. Healy recalled that, besides the Ogdens and Sheldons, the Kinzies, Rumseys, Brainards, and the McCaggs were family friends. Ezra B. McCagg was identified as one of his “best and dearest” friends. Mary Healy remembered the families of Judge Drummond, Judge Mark Skinner, and Isaac N. Arnold, as friends. Another recollection of life in Chicago for Mary was that of attending the Lane and Baker School for about one year, with her sister Agnes. The school was run by Miss Lane and Miss Baker, in a church basement.
In 1857 the family moved to Cottage Hill (today, Elmhurst), located outside of Chicago, for the “sake of the children’s health.” Healy bought a house there called, “Hill Cottage,” in the summer of 1857, from Thomas Barbour Bryan, his patron and lawyer.  Hill Cottage had the distinction of being the first house built in the town, and had served as the original Cottage Hill Tavern. Healy renamed the house, “Clover Lawn,” and his family, including wife, six daughters and one son, lived there for six years. The artist painted portraits of the Bryan family—who lived in “Bird’s Nest,” a house nearby—and the two families intermingled. Among the portraits of members of the Bryan family is a group portrait of Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Barbour Bryan, and Jennie (Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond), and one of Mrs. Thomas B. Bryan (National Museum of American Art, Washington, DC). Mary Healy later recalled that their home had many “low-ceilinged rooms,” and that their mother found their stay in the country “rather austere.” The children had a governess. After about a year, the elder daughters were sent to a convent school in Wheeling, Virginia. The family later moved back to Chicago in 1863.
In 1857 Healy received a commission from Congress to paint a series of presidential portraits. He worked on portraits of Millard Fillmore and Martin Van Buren in 1857. He painted one full-length portrait of Millard Fillmore (1800-1874) (The White House, Washington, DC), the thirteenth U.S. president (1850-1853), in February, and in December, another, smaller portrait of Fillmore (Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC). A small portrait of Martin Van Buren (1782-1862) (Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC), was painted by Healy in April, in Philadelphia.
Healy’s commission for the presidential portrait series gave him reason to spend time in Washington. Although his home was in Chicago in 1857, his address is given as “Washington” in the exhibition catalogue of the National Academy of Design, New York, for that year. Four paintings by Healy were exhibited at the First Annual Exhibition of the Washington Art Association in 1857, including portraits of Hon. Reverdy Johnson, Jo. Gales, Hon. J. J. Crittenden (National Portrait Gallery, Washington, DC), and his Franklin before Louis XVI. In August of 1857, Healy was back in Chicago, intending to return to Washington the following spring. At some point in 1857, George’s brother, Thomas Cantwell visited him in Chicago. During his visit, George painted a portrait of him.
In 1858, the family home was established in Cottage Hill and Healy had a working address in Chicago, at 131 Lake Street. Throughout the year the artist continued painting portraits prodigiously, in different parts of the country, and working on his commission from the U.S. Government, for the series of presidential portraits. In 1858 he painted three portraits in the series, Martin Van Buren, John Quincy Adams, and James Knox Polk. Healy communicated with Hiram Powers regarding another subject in the series, Andrew Jackson, and on November 25, 1858, wrote to yet another president, James Buchanan, regarding sittings for his portrait.
In January of 1858, a full-length portrait of Millard Fillmore, the first portrait painted in the series, was on exhibition in the Rotunda of the Capitol in Washington. Healy referred to this completed portrait of Fillmore in his letter written on January 14, 1858, to a representative of Congress. He suggested that all of the portraits should be full-length, as that of Fillmore, and also indicated that he was ready to enter into a contract for the presidential series. Healy planned to spend about a month in Kinderhook, New York, painting the portrait of former president, Martin Van Buren. Portrait of Van Buren (The White House, Washington, DC) was painted in April. Portrait of Franklin Pierce (The White House, Washington, DC) was painted in Chicago, in May, and John Quincy Adams’s portrait (The White House, Washington, DC; Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC) was painted in July.
In August, the portraits of Adams and Pierce were on display in Healy’s studio, which was “open to his friends every Thursday afternoon.”  Healy painted a portrait of former President James Knox Polk (The White House, Washington, DC) in October, in Chicago. Three other portraits painted by Healy in 1858, were Mrs. Stephen A. Douglas (Virginia Historical Society, Richmond), and two of influential men: Alexander Hamilton Stephens (The Georgia State Law Library, Atlanta), later Governor of Georgia, and, the Mayor of Chicago, John Wentworth (1814-1888) (New Hampshire Historical Society, Concord, NH).
The Healy’s ninth and last child, Kathleen, was born on June 27, 1858, at Cottage Hill. Around this time, the third eldest daughter, Edith, born in 1848, was sent to school in Wheeling, [West] Virginia. In addition to her regular studies, Edith played the harp. When she was ten, Edith’s father visited the school and painted Christ Child (Mount de Chantal Academy, Wheeling, WV) for the Chapel’s altar. Edith posed for the hands and feet in the painting.
In 1859, Healy’s itinerary included trips to St. Louis, Wheeling, Washington, Philadelphia, Louisville and New Orleans. He continued working on the presidential series, painting portraits of former president John Tyler (The White House, Washington, DC; National Portrait Gallery, Washington, DC), in February, and President Buchanan, in June and October. Of the three portraits by Healy exhibited at the National Academy of Design, New York, beginning in May, one was of Tyler. On May 9, 1859, the first “Fine Art Exposition of the Northwest” opened at Burch’s Building, on the corner of Wabash Avenue and Lake Street in Chicago. Leonard Volk was appointed Superintendent, and organized the exhibition. Eighteen works by Healy were included. This has been generally recognized as the first fine arts exhibition in Chicago.
President Buchanan (1791-1868) sat for Healy in Washington (National Portrait Gallery, Washington, DC), in June and again in September (full-length, Dickenson College, Carlisle, PA; Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC) for finishing touches. Upon completion of Buchanan’s portrait, Healy wrote to Hiram Powers, regarding three additional works, those of Jackson, Taylor, and Harrison, which Healy planned to paint in Chicago. He wrote, “when they are painted, I shall have completed my ten, the first five were painted by Stuart.” He also let Powers know that Powers’ cast of Jackson’s head, which was sent to aid him in painting this portrait, had arrived.
By the end of the year, Healy’s commission for the presidential series for the government seemed somewhat fraught with bureaucratic uncertainties as to the number and sizes of the paintings desired, and payment for them. Characteristically, however, Healy continued working on the portraits, and communicating with Congress, demonstrating both Healy’s persevering, good nature and his business sense. On December 12, Healy wrote to President Buchanan, offering him his full-length portrait for acquisition. He suggested that he would be willing to take back his half-length portraits, and to make all the presidential portraits the same size, if so desired.
At the end of the month, the artist may have entered into a different business agreement with Thomas B. Bryan. On December 28, 1859, Healy seems to have signed papers buying property in Chicago from Bryan. The payment for the property was to be in paintings, cash, and transfer of the Clover Lawn property. Although the artist did sell Bryan a large number of portraits, as well as the original study for Webster’s Reply to Hayne, and the prize-winning, Franklin Near Louis XVI, he may not have included the Cottage Hill property in this particular arrangement.
Healy worked on portraits for about two months at the end of 1859, in Louisville, Kentucky, where he reported having “good success.” He returned home for three weeks in December, then traveled to New Orleans on December 29, 1859. There he worked with his brother, Thomas, planning to stay until April 1860, and then to proceed on to Alabama. Among his New Orleans paintings are portraits of Mrs. (Sally Hunt) Ward (The J. B. Speed Art Museum, Louisville, KY), and Mrs. Thomas Jenkins Semmes, whom he identified as a “good Catholic.” After a financially successful season in the South, Healy went back to Louisville, Kentucky in May to paint portraits, and returned home to Cottage Hill for the summer. In September and October he journeyed to Virginia, Philadelphia, and Boston, and was again home at Clover Lawn by the end of the year.
An important commission was that given by Thomas B. Bryan to Healy in the fall of 1860 to paint the recently elected President, Abraham Lincoln, in Springfield, Illinois. Lincoln sat for Healy “three or four” times. The resultant portrait was Healy’s ‘beardless’ Lincoln (The Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC). It was finished by November 15, and on view in Healy’s Chicago studio at 133 Lake Street by November 17. Although he later painted other portraits of Lincoln, Healy recalled these as the President’s only sittings for him. With this painting of Lincoln, Bryan’s collection of presidential portraits by Healy was brought up to date.
Healy exhibited nearly two dozen paintings at the First Chicago Art Union Distribution exhibition, at Hestler’s Gallery beginning on December 7, 1860. Two of his works were offered as part of the distribution: a life-sized Portrait of Col. T. L. Harris, of Illinois, painted from life, and, The Prayer, a life-sized head of a Girl with veil. Among his other works were two portraits of presidents, two of bishops, and three of artists. At the beginning of 1861, Healy visited Washington, and for a week, Havanna, Cuba, before traveling on to New Orleans.
A prelude to the Civil War was the secession from the Union, in December of 1860, of South Carolina—the first of the Southern states to do so. On April 12, 1861, the Civil War began with the fall of the federally-built and manned Fort Sumter (Charleston, South Carolina) to the seceded Southern states. General Pierre Gustave Toutant de Beauregard (1818-1893) ordered the first shot on Fort Sumter. Incredibly, Healy was in Charleston at the time, working on a portrait of Beauregard (City Hall, Charleston, SC; Newberry Library, Chicago, IL; copy by T.C. Healy, Louisiana State Museum, New Orleans, LA), with Fort Sumter depicted in the background. Healy had begun the portrait in New Orleans, where he had several other commissions, and he followed Beauregard to Charleston to complete it. After the attack on Fort Sumter, reference to Healy appeared in a Charleston paper to the effect that if he did not leave before sundown, he would be “tarred and feathered.” Healy heeded the warning upon advice from a friend. He went to New Orleans, and then to Chicago via Wheeling, [West] Virginia, where he collected his three daughters from school. During the Civil War, Healy’s brother, William, enlisted with the Confederates. For the Union, Healy painted a banner for the 37th Illinois infantry (called, the ‘Fremont Rifles’).
For the most part Healy remained at Cottage Hill through the end of 1861. He admitted to a friend, in a letter written in August, to being in debt and not having enough portrait commissions to support his family. T.B. Bryan helped to alleviate some of the debt by purchasing Healy’s interest in Graceland Cemetery in Chicago. At the end of the year Healy’s work included painting a full-length portrait of Andrew Jackson for Congress.
Healy spent the first half of 1862 in Baltimore, Washington, Philadelphia, New York, and Wheeling, the summer in Clover Lawn, and the remainder in Chicago. While in Washington, Healy was involved in a discussion in regard to the placement of his series of presidential portraits ordered by Congress. In a letter to Mrs. Goddard in August, Healy wrote of a plan for fifty of his paintings and $100 each from fifty men to “form the commencement of a permanent gallery in Chicago bearing [his] name.” A receipt from Healy to Thomas Hoyne for $100, “for his subscription to [Healy’s] gallery,” shows that he had made some progress towards his goal by November of 1862. Leonard Volk, who together with Healy, worked to further art interests in Chicago, assisted the painter towards the goal of the formation of an art gallery, although the idea of having it named after Healy seemed to have changed at some point. An essay about Volk, in Biographical Sketches of the Leading Men of Chicago, published in 1868, describes the two artists’ interests, and the status of the planned art gallery, as follows:
“He [Volk] has ever been active, in conjunction with George P.A. Healy, the great portrait painter, in behalf of art, and in assisting such of his fellow artists as were struggling for success. He succeeded in getting subscribers to purchase Mr. Healy’s valuable private gallery of paintings, which have been placed in the keeping of Hon. J.Y. Scammon, to be held in trust for the subscribers. A chartered association has recently been formed, which will in due time open a public Art Gallery, with this collection as a nucleus.”
Volk had canvassed the city for six months, and raised subscriptions for $4,000, which amount Healy accepted.
During the summer of 1862, the artist gave his neighbor, Mrs. Bryan, portraits of her sisters. Perhaps he also gave her an idea of the possibility of the Healy family’s departure from Cottage Hill. He wrote in a letter to her, dated July 6, 1862 that, “should circumstances force us to leave this lovely spot, I hope the sight of them will recall to your mind one who has received so many kindnesses at the hands of you and yours.” At some point during the year, the Healys had planned to move from Clover Lawn to Boston. They decided instead however, to relocate to Chicago as Louisa’s mother was too ill to move farther away. By November of 1862, the Healys had sold Clover Lawn and moved to 247 Illinois Street in Chicago. The artist was pleased to be in Chicago, near his studio and his church, and also glad that having much work to do, he was nearly ‘out of debt.’ Among the portraits painted by Healy in 1862, were those of the poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, VA), and Mrs. Volk and her daughter, Honore (The Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC).
Orestes A. Brownson (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA), a New Englander, was one of Healy’s portrait subjects painted in Chicago early in 1863. Over three dozen works by the artist were exhibited at the Northwestern Fine Arts Fair, held “in aid of the Chicago Branch of the U.S. Sanitary Commission for the Relief of Soldiers,” in McVicker’s Theatre, beginning on October 27, 1863. Among the portraits of citizens of Illinois represented in the exhibition was a portrait of the Governor of Illinois, Richard Yates (1861-1864). Leonard Volk organized the Art Galleries for the Fair. Sometime between 1864 and 1865, Healy bought a house at 259 Wabash Avenue, and moved his studio from Lake Street to the Crosby Opera House.
President Abraham Lincoln—whose presidency spanned the Civil War—was assassinated on April 14, 1865. At some point after Lincoln’s death, Healy decided to paint his third, large historical portrait, called, The Peacemakers (life size, destroyed by fire, Calumet Club, Chicago, in 1892; 48” x 62” version, The White House, Washington, DC; 21” x 29” chomolithograph version, Chicago Historical Society). The painting shows General Sherman describing the Georgia campaign (related to the ending of the Civil War) to President Lincoln, General Grant, and Admiral Porter on board the River Queen, docked at City Point, March 28, 1865. One of the painting’s subjects, General Sherman, later wrote to Isaac Arnold, recalling that he had initially suggested the subject to Healy and also how the artist came to paint the portrait:
In Chicago about June or July of that year  when all the facts were first in my mind I told them to Geo. P.A. Healy the artist who was casting about for a subject for an Historical Painting and he adopted this interview. Mr. Lincoln was then dead, but Healy had a portrait which he himself had made at Springfield some five or six years before….
Sherman replied in January of 1868 to a letter of Healy’s in which the artist apparently wrote of his ‘proposed picture,’ asking for details regarding the interview which had taken place in March of 1865. Although Healy made all the studies for the painting in the United States, he painted it in Rome.
In June of 1865, ten works by Healy were exhibited at the second Northwestern Fair, held “for the benefit of the U.S. Sanitary Commission and Soldiers’ Home,” in Chicago. Included were portraits Archbishop John McCloskey (1810-1885) (Newberry Library, Chicago, IL), Governor Richard James Oglesby (1865-1869), of Illinois (Illinois State Historical Library, Old State Capitol, Springfield, IL) and Lieutenant Governor Bross, also of Illinois. Healy’s part in the Fair was a significant one. In addition to contributing portraits to the exhibition, he served as the Chairman of the Fair’s Fine Arts Committee.
At some point, the Healys decided to spend a few years abroad, in order for Healy to rest from his rigorous painting schedule in the United States. Louisa and the six younger children left Chicago in June of 1866. Healy and the eldest daughter, Agnes, followed a year later.
The Crosby Opera House in Chicago, which also housed an art center including artist’s studios and exhibition space, had opened in the spring of 1865, the week in which Lincoln was assassinated. Because the Opera House was not a financial success, the Crosby Opera House Art Association was formed, and arrangements were made sometime after June of 1866 for the Opera House and artwork to be sold by lottery. One work by Healy, Prayer, was listed in the lottery. Healy maintained a studio at Crosby’s Opera House in 1865 and 1866. That Healy had made a significant contribution to the artistic and social life in Chicago during his residence there in the 1850s and 1860s is evident in a farewell letter to the artist, and in a biographical essay about him, published in 1868. In the latter, published in, Biographical Sketches of the Leading Men of Chicago, the author indicates appreciation for Healy when he writes:
“We need not add a word as to the great success which has uniformly attended Mr. Healy’s efforts to please his patrons in Chicago, as it has become proverbial that to engage a sitting with him is to secure a finished likeness. A more perfect gentleman, genial companion and affectionate parent need not be looked for, than he of whom we have written. A friend to the poor, always ready to lend a helping hand to those who are struggling for success, especially in the art circles of which he is the acknowledged head, he has won a place in the affections of hundreds of our citizens, which time cannot efface.”
Praise for Healy is also found in a farewell letter to him, written on June 15, 1867, and signed by eighteen prominent citizens of Chicago. Referring to the impact he made while in that city, the letter reads in part:
“As an artist, you came among us when Art was little known and appreciated. By your taste and varied culture; by the many examples of highest excellence for which we are indebted to your pencil; by your generous liberality towards your profession; and by your ever kind encouragement towards young Artists, you have created a School of Art in the North West, the influence of which, in refining and elevating the people will be permanent…. we look forward with the hope that at an early day we may welcome you home, as an honored and permanent fellowcitizen.”
One indication of the Healys’ intention to return is that they closed down, rather than sold, their house on Wabash Avenue. As evidence of Healy’s fondness for his Chicago “home” and his feelings that it was the one place where he had finally planted roots, the family moved back to Chicago at the sunset of his career in 1892, two years before Healy’s death. Healy, his daughter, Agnes and her cousin, Emily Hanley joined Louisa and the other children in Paris at 35 Rue de Berlin, in July 1867. Bishop Duggan, of Chicago, visited the Healy family in Paris in the same month.  The family planned to spend the summer in St. Cloud, near Paris, and winter in Rome. In a letter to a friend, Mrs. Healy mentioned the family’s desire to return to Chicago after Rome. During the summer the Healy’s eldest daughter, Agnes, was married in St. Cloud to Tiburce de Mare, a childhood friend from Versailles. Among the wedding guests were friends from Chicago, including Mr. and Mrs. Hoyne, and Mrs. McGinness and children. Louisa wrote to a friend that after summer vacation, George Louis was to continue school in Paris, Maria and Emily were to go to the Sacred Heart School in Germany, and Mary, Edith and Kathleen were to accompany the family to Rome. Healy, in the company of his niece, Emily, was to go to the United States to settle business, including fulfilling portrait commissions, in preparation for living in Europe for a period of time.
Healy had been one of the founding members of the Chicago Academy of Design. The Academy was first organized in November of 1866,  and its constitution adopted and instituted in March of 1867. In November of that year, the Academy was reorganized, at which time Leonard Volk was elected President, and Healy became one of eight council members. He was reported in February of 1868 to have completed several portraits in Chicago, including one of Mrs. McCormick. At the exhibition held by the Academy in March of 1868 at the Crosby Opera House, Healy displayed nine paintings. In May of 1868, in his painting room in Chicago, the artist offered for sale ninety-four of his copies and studies made over the previous thirty years. In December, one painting by the artist was shown at the Chicago Academy of Design’s third annual exhibition, held at the Opera House.
The family lived in Rome from 1868 until 1873. The painter’s initial major project of this period was The Peacemakers, for which he had done the preliminary work in the United States. In February of 1869, he was reported to have set up his studio in Rome, and to have finished his masterwork. In April of 1869 it was on view in a small room in the Capitol in Washington. Interestingly, at the time, Ulysses S. Grant, one of the four men in the picture, had recently begun his term of office as the eighteenth United States President.
Healy received a commission from Archbishop Spalding of Baltimore in the spring of 1869, to paint a portrait Pope Pius IX (Kenwood Convent of the Sacred Heart, Albany, NY). He began the portrait from memory, but the Pope later sat for the artist in February of 1871. For the portrait, he received a gold medal from the earthly head of the Catholic Church. The Pope also made the artist a Knight of Saint Gregory the Great.
Edith later recalled that the family traveled in Italy, Germany and Switzerland before returning to Rome in 1870, at the beginning of the Franco-Prussian War. For his part, Healy collected sketches from artists of the French Academy in Rome and sent them to New York for sale, with the proceeds going towards “relief of the wounded” in France. In February of 1871 the “pensionnaires” of the Academy wrote the artist a letter of appreciation for his efforts on behalf of their compatriots.
In 1871, Healy finished The Arch of Titus (Newark Art Museum, Newark, NJ; study, Illinois State Museum, Springfield, IL), a collaborative painting, begun in 1869. Depicted in it are Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and his daughter, Edith on the left, underneath the Arch of Titus, with the Roman Colosseum in the background, and three artists, Frederic Edwin Church (1826-1900), Jervis McEntee (1828-1891) and Healy, on the right. Healy painted the figures of Longfellow and his daughter with the aid of photographs.
After visiting Naples with his daughter, Mary, Healy set up a studio on the island of Capri for July and August of 1871. He planned to go to Spain in September, and return to Rome, 54. Via Gregoriana, in October. On October 8, while he was in Madrid on a sketching trip, the Great Fire of 1871 ravaged Chicago. The family’s house there, on Wabash Street was consumed. Nearly all of the many portraits by Healy owned by his many patrons in Chicago were destroyed by the Great Conflagration, including his medal-winning historical portrait of Franklin before Louis XVI. Of his work represented in the Chicago Historical Society, only one portrait, Miss Snead, was saved.
While in Rome, Healy was asked by the Duke of Weimar, to paint a portrait of the Princess Oldenburg (Newberry Library, Chicago, IL), which led to another commission to paint her cousin, the Princess of Romania (Castle Peles, Sinaia, Romania). During the summer of 1872, at the request of the royal family of Romania, Healy traveled to their summer retreat in the Carpathian Mountains in Sinaia, Romania to paint family portraits. While in Romania, Healy painted the portrait Prince Charles (Carol I) (Castle Peles, Sinaia, Romania; Illinois State Art Museum, Springfield, IL), and of the couple’s young daughter, Marie (Palace Museum, Bucharest, Romania). Once back in Rome, Healy made plans to send portraits of the royal family, and of Pope Pius IX, the pianist Franz Liszt (1811-1886) (Newberry Library, Chicago, IL), and Grant to the International Exhibition to be held in Vienna in the spring. During his sojourn in Rome, many visiting Americans, including Chicagoans, had their portraits painted by Healy.
The Healy family moved from Rome to Paris in 1873. Healy planned to go directly to Paris, while Louisa and the children first visited the south of France. One reason for the move was that the season was longer in Paris than in Rome. Another reason was to enable the family to be with their only son, George Louis who was to enter the Ecole des Beaux-Arts as a student of architecture in the fall of 1873. The family moved to an eighteenth century ‘hotel,’ with garden—formerly a residence of the French writer, Victor Hugo—at 66 rue de la Rochefoucauld, in the artist-inhabited, Montmartre section of Paris, where they lived until 1892. Healy also took a studio next door, at no. 64, previously occupied by the German portrait painter, Franz Xaver Winterhalter. A connecting door was cut between the two properties.
On February 14, 1874, Healy’s second eldest daughter, Mary, was married to Charles Bigot, a writer, journalist, critic and teacher, whom she had met in Rome. After their marriage, the couple lived on the top floor of the Healy home. In 1875 or so, Healy bought a home, “Lucknow Plantation,”  near Port Gibson, Mississippi, for his brother, Thomas and his wife, Charlotte Roberts.
Probably in recognition of his respected status as a portrait painter, a self-portrait by Healy, dated 1875,  was the first by an American to be added to the collection of the Uffizi Gallery, in Florence, Italy. Healy returned to Chicago in 1875, after an absence of several years. Two of his paintings were exhibited at the Chicago Academy of Design in the spring. In October, he was reported in a newspaper article to have taken “Mr. Drury”s studio on Huron Street,” where he would work during the winter. Praise in the article for the artist’s work included the following, “Healy’s best portraits are the best painted by any living American artist.” At the beginning of 1876, Healy left Chicago for Washington. He exhibited a number of paintings in the year of the American Centennial celebration. At the Chicago Interstate Industrial Exposition, over two dozen pictures by Healy were exhibited, including his series of presidential portraits.
In 1877 Healy painted portraits of the French statesman, Leon Gambetta (1838-1882) (Newberry Library, Chicago, IL), for Elihu Benjamin Washburne, U.S. Minisiter to France, Lord Richard Bickerton Pemell Lyons (1817-1887), the British diplomat (Newberry Library, Chicago, IL), and Prince Otto Eduard Leopold von Bismarck (1815-1898) (Newberry Library, Chicago, IL). Bismarck sat for Healy in 1877, in Berlin in March, and in Kissingen in June.
In the spring of 1879, Healy’s presidential portrait series, owned by Thomas B. Bryan, was purchased by William W. Corcoran for the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington. The presidential series consisted of fourteen presidents, among whom was the ‘beardless Lincoln’, mentioned earlier. Not long after this time, Healy’s son, George Louis, graduated from the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris. In May, Healy painted the American singer, Emma Thursby (The New-York Historical Society, New York, NY), and in July the artist had his first sitting from Ferdinand Marie de Lesseps (1805-1894) (Newberry Library, Chicago, IL), of Panama Canal fame. The portrait—originally a double portrait of Lesseps and Mr. Appleton—includes a map of the Canal.
Healy spent the summer months of 1879 in Paris. In August, he journeyed with Kathleen to the United States to fulfill numerous commissions. Their itinerary in the United States, in August and September, included New England, Albany, and Niagara Falls. In Albany they visited Healy’s sister, Agnes, at the Kenwood Convent, and also went to see the murals by the late William Morris Hunt in the State Capitol. In September they arrived in Chicago, where they remained through the winter.
Healy had much work to do in Chicago, including retouching portraits he had painted previously, as well as painting new ones. He changed the number of stars on the uniforms of Grant and Sherman in The Peacemakers, in the collection of the Calumet Club, and painted a portrait of Governor Cullum. In November, Healy was glad of his son’s arrival in Chicago, together with his friend, Louis J. Millet (1856-1923), also a graduate of the Ecole des Beaux Arts. Healy’s portrait of de Lesseps and Nathan Appleton was exhibited at the annual reception at the Chicago Academy of Design in December, and two portraits by him were exhibited at the Chicago Academy of Design in February of 1880.
In 1880, Healy’s son, and his son’s friend, Louis J. Millet opened a decorating business called, Healy & Millet, in Chicago. Over time they achieved a measure of success, with their work, represented in such Chicago buildings as Louis Sullivan’s Auditorium building, the Calumet Club and Union League Club, Central Music Hall, Grace Episcopal Church, and the residences of Potter Palmer.
The same year, Healy spent the months of February through April in Washington, and May in New York. He and Kathleen returned to Europe on the steamer, City of Chester, at the end of May. In August, Healy attended the birthday celebrations of the Prince de Neuwied—brother of Princess Elisabeth of Romania—in Wiesbaden, Germany. In September, he traveled back to the United States, to work there during the winter season. As in the previous year, he traveled through New England, and New York before arriving in Chicago. After visiting his sister, Agnes (Mrs. Dyson) at Kenwoood Convent, Albany, and attempting unsuccessfully to see President-elect James Garfield in Mentor, Illinois for a proposed portrait, Healy traveled to Chicago in December. He planned to spend some time there, but changed plans after receiving word that Prince Charles of Romania had requested two portraits.
Healy responded to the request by leaving for Europe in January of 1881. His second, and last trip to Romania consisted of a stay in Bucharest from February 15 through March, during which time he painted portraits of Prince Charles (Castle Peles, Sinaia, Romania; Newberry Library, Chicago, IL) and Princess Elisabeth (Palace Museum, Bucharest, Romania; Newberry Library, Chicago, IL). One portrait of Charles (Newberry Library, Chicago, IL) was rapidly completed, in time to be exhibited at the Paris Salon of 1881. While the artist was in Bucharest, he witnessed the signing of the papers making Charles and Elisabeth King and Queen of Romania.
In May of 1881, the artist returned to the United States to work on portraits, including one of General Sherman which was finished by the end of the month. His daughter, Emily, arrived in New York in September to go to the convent on 17th Street. In December, his son, George Louis visited New York on business from Chicago. A portrait by Healy of the late Ogden (Chicago Historical Society, Chicago, IL)—after one painted by the artist ten years earlier—was presented on December 20, 1881 to the Chicago Historical Society. In January of 1882, the Historical Society’s President, Isaac N. Arnold, commissioned Healy to paint a portrait, Robert Cavelier La Salle (Chicago Historical Society, Chicago, IL), after an engraving. Marshall Field presented the finished portrait to the Chicago Historical Society sometime before April 24 of 1882.
Healy worked in New York January through March, and in Chicago in April and May of 1882. After having been away from his family for a year, he returned home at the end of May. His son joined the family in Paris from July until September. Louisa, and the two daughters, Kathleen and Edith, accompanied Healy on a working vacation to Germany in September and October. While the Healy family stayed as guests at the home of Dr. Meurer in Wiesbaden, Healy painted portraits of the host’s family.
The Healy family spent a year in the United States beginning in 1883. George departed first, in May, for Chicago via New York. In Chicago he arranged for a studio and exhibition space with artist John H. Drury, and met the family of his son’s fiancé. He visited with his daughter, Emily, who was living at the Convent. In early August, he attended the wedding of his son, George Louis. That month, Healy traveled to New York in order to meet his wife and daughters upon their arrival from France. His son and new daughter-in-law also traveled to New York to join the family. After visiting together, George Louis and his new wife returned to Chicago, while George, Louisa, Edith and Kathleen traveled on to Newport where they stayed with the McCaggs and visited with the Belmonts, the Whitehouses and other friends.
In September Healy returned to Chicago. While there he again visited Emily, and finished his portrait of Elihu Benjamin Washburne (1816-1887), U.S. Minister to France, 1869-1877, destined for Washington. Louisa and the girls arrived in Chicago at the end of October. The artist retouched the portraits of Lincoln and Grant in his painting, The Peacemakers, at the Calumet Club, on December 24, 1883. A few days later he and his family traveled to New York.
In April of 1884, in Washington, Healy painted President Chester Arthur’s portrait for William W. Corcoran. (Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC ; Illinois State Museum, Springfield, IL; Newberry Library, Chicago, IL). On June 4, the family departed via steamer from New York to Liverpool, England. They spent the later part of June in Scotland, Birmingham—where they visited with their daughter, Marie, at a Convent there—and in London. They returned to Paris at the end of the month, after an absence of about a year.
The family was honored when books by both their daughter, Mary, and her husband, Charles Bigot, were crowned by the French Academy in 1884. Mary’s book, published under her pen name, Jeanne Mairet, was entitled Marca. Charles’ book was entitled Petit Français. Also in 1884, Raphael et La Farnesine, a collaborative book by Healy’s two sons-in-law, was published. Charles Bigot wrote the text and Tiburce de Mare provided the engravings. The book was dedicated to George Healy. Mary wrote the English translation for the book, which was published as, Raphael and the Villa Farnesina.
At the end of December 1884, Healy left Paris for a four-month long working trip to the United States. In the States, his itinerary included New England in January and February, Chicago in February, and New York from February through April. Following the pattern of travel established early in his life, Healy incorporated visits with family members—including his sister, Agnes, in Albany, his daughter, Emily and his son, George-Louis and wife, Laura, in Chicago—with travel to fulfill portrait commissions. He returned to Paris in May. In July the artist was asked to serve as president of a committee of American artists in France for an exhibition of American products to be held in London. For a period of about a month, from July to August 1885, the family rented a house in ‘Mers près Eu’. Apparently due to financial necessity, however, Healy remained, for the most part, working in Paris while the rest of the family vacationed by the sea. In September, a friend from Chicago, Ezra McCagg and his sister, visited the Healys in Paris. The family took a short trip to the Low Countries at the end of September, including a visit to the Universal Exhibition. In 1885, Healy’s daughter, Edith authored a book called Painters of the Italian Renaissance containing engravings by Tiburce de Mare.
Healy did not visit the United States in 1886 or 1887. On February 19, 1886, he painted a selfportrait (Brooklyn Museum of Art, New York, NY) for the American painter, Eastman Johnson (1824-1906), as part of an arrangement in which the two artists agreed to exchange selfportraits. In 1886, the family took two trips: one to England in June and July, and one, by only George, Louisa, and their friend, Ezra McCagg, to the South of France, in August.
During the trip to England, the Healy family went on a day outing on the Thames River with the Edwin Sheldon and Whitehouse families and Louis McCagg. During the excursion, Healy made sketches which he later used, together with photographs of the party, to paint the group portrait, The Boating Party on the Thames. In October, Charles and Mary Bigot left for New York to attend the inauguration ceremony of Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi’s Statue of Liberty, as press representatives. In the same month, Healy decided that George de Mare, one of his grandsons who showed artistic talent, should enter the Julien Académie for further training.
Having now exceeded the age of seventy, Healy made arrangements through his friend from Chicago, Ezra B. McCagg, for some of his paintings to be placed in Illinois institutions. Two recipients of his benevolence were the Newberry Library, in Chicago and the State Hospital at Kankakee, Illinois. Healy corresponded with members of the Board of Trustees of the Newberry Library, beginning in 1886, about his plans to give a number of portraits to the as yet unbuilt Library. Healy initially proposed a contribution of about twenty portraits, in a letter written to McCagg, who was a member of the board. While identifying himself as a Chicagoan, Healy explained the reason for his gift:
“…because I have great pride in the City of Chicago and its prosperity, and affection for its people, and in further consideration of One Dollar to me in hand paid by said Trustees, I George P.A. Healy, of said City of Chicago, but now temporarily [emphasis added] a resident of Paris, France, do give and sell to said Trustees for the use of and as the property of the Trustees of the Newberry Library Fund… the following portraits painted by myself.…”
Healy withdrew some portraits from the original list, and added others. Of those added at a later time, three were painted specifically for the Newberry Library, including a portrait of the Newberry Library’s first Librarian, William F. Poole (Newberry Library), and one each of Jules Simon (Newberry Library), and Whitelaw Ried (Newberry Library), the United States Minister to France. In 1887, thirty-two painting by Healy were presented to the Newberry Library.
In March of 1887, Healy finished portraits of Ferdinand Barbedienne (Illinois State Museum, Springfield, IL) who owned and operated a bronze foundry and of Lincoln, the latter commissioned by E.B. Washburne. In May, Healy traveled to London to help set up artwork for the American exhibition. In July, the Healy family vacationed in Interlaken, Switzerland. During the vacation, as at other times, Healy continued his usual practice of sketching and painting. Beginning in November of 1887 several paintings by Healy, in the E.B. Washburne Collection were exhibited at the Art Institute of Chicago.
Healy painted a portrait of the English poet and statesman, Lord Edward Robert Bulwer-Lytton (1831-1891) (Newberry Library, Chicago, IL), in March of 1888. In April and May, the Healy family, including George, Louisa, Edith and Kathleen, visited Spain. Another trip taken by Healy in 1888, in the company of his old friend, Ezra McCagg, was to Alaska, from mid-June to mid-September. As was his custom throughout his life, Healy continued to attend Mass weekly whenever possible, including on board ship. En route to Alaska, he paid visits to his sister, Agnes, in Albany, his son in Chicago, and his daughter, Emily, who was visiting there. On the return trip from Alaska, he stopped in Omaha, Nebraska to visit Emily, who had returned to her convent there.  Before returning to France in September, Healy finished a portrait of Cardinal Gibbons, in Baltimore, and had a sitting from Mrs. Palmer in New York.
Healy forwent travel to the United States in 1889 and 1890. During the summers of each of these two years, his family vacationed near the water, in the north of France. In 1889 they stayed in Veules—where the artist made several ‘open-air’ sketches, including, Pear Tree at Veules (Illinois State Museum, Springfield, IL), and Le Cure de Veules (Illinois State Museum, Springfield, IL). And, in 1890, they stayed at, ‘Pennedepie,’ an hour from Honfleur, where he also sketched. Several portraits by the artist were exhibited in Paris in 1889, including six at the Universal International Exhibition, and three at the annual Salon. In 1890, Healy showed his work at the Paris Salon for the last time. The two paintings, Jules Simon and Whitelaw Reid, were destined for inclusion in Healy’s gift of portraits to the Newberry Library. Another portrait by Healy, John Crerar (1827-1889), patron of the library bearing his name in Chicago (now merged into the Chicago Public Library), was exhibited in that city at the beginning of 1891. During this sojourn he thought to contribute to the young students seeking to come abroad to study. With this in mind, Healy contributed a series of articles as to student life, places to study, eat, stay, and the like. For those eager to come to Paris, these correspondent letters must have been eagerly read.
While the artist was in Chicago in May and June of 1891, he painted portraits Dr. Poole, and the late President Cummings of Evanston. Besides his gift to the Newberry Library, mentioned earlier, Healy arranged, through Ezra McCagg, for another donation of his artwork, to the Illinois State Hospital, at Kankakee. In 1892, seventy-one of Healy’s paintings, and additional “sketches, back-grounds, etc.” were given to the Hospital. Included among the original gift were a portrait , Mrs. Harrison Grey Otis, and, Boating Party on the Thames.  The Board’s appreciation for Healy’s largesse is recorded in the minutes of its meeting held on February 9, 1892:
“These beautiful pictures will be a light and joy forever to the many patients who shall come here to be restored and will often aid in that restoration, and for the hapless ones who must permanently remain they will serve to relieve many a gloomy hour and furnish a companionship the noblest and most comforting. We are sure it must be a satisfaction to the artist to have his memory perpetuated by joining hands with the State in a work so worthy and to add his world-wide fame as a painter the even higher glory of a lover of his kind.”
In January of 1892, George Healy decided the family should re-settle in Chicago the following month. Plans were made for George, Louisa, and Kathleen to leave for the United States on February 20. Edith stayed behind to pack and close the house in Paris, which still had a lease. One reason given for Healy’s return was his wish to be near his son, George Louis, who had settled in Chicago in 1880, and was still in business in partnership with Millet. Another reason was his desire “to die in his own country.” In Chicago, Healy bought a house at 387 Ontario Street, and took a studio at 268 Huron Street. Members of Chicago’s Cosmopolitan Club voted Healy an honorary membership by March of 1892. He accepted the membership, and was reported to have said that he was “pleased to assist in any way in his
power the progress of art in Chicago.” In May, he was one of three judges, including C. Kurtz and S.H. Meakin, at the fourth annual exhibition of the Chicago Society of Artists, whose task was to award two Charles Tyson Yerkes prizes. Unfortunately, in the same year, one of Healy’s versions of the painting, The Peacemakers, was destroyed in the fire at the Calumet Club.
The event of the year in Chicago, in 1893, was the World’s Columbian Exposition. One portrait by Healy was exhibited at the Fair, that of Adolf Thiers (Newberry Library, Chicago, IL). Healy signed his will on February 7, 1893. Sometime during the year the artist fell and injured his head. He painted little during the last three months of his life. On June 24, 1894, at 2:30 a.m., he died at home, of “exhaustion, brought on by the hot weather.” At the time, his wife, eldest and youngest daughters (Agnes and Kathleen), and a grandson were all nearby.
The seven children surviving Healy included George Louis, two daughters, Agnes and Mary, each married and living in Paris, two daughters who were nuns, Marie, at a convent in England, and Emily, superior of a convent in Michigan, and two daughters living at home, Edith and Kathleen. Edith was in Europe with her sister, Mary (whose husband, Charles Bigot had died the previous year) when word arrived of Healy’s illness and “peaceful death.” Edith returned home to Elmhurst, where the family was spending the summer. She cared for her mother for the next ten years. Published notice of Healy’s death included praise for Healy as both artist and man, as indicated in the following excerpt from the Chicago Herald:
“George P.A. Healy, recognized in two continents as one of the greatest portrait painters of the century, died yesterday morning at his home in this city, 387 Ontario Street. Into his long life of 81 years were crowded vicissitudes which, one with another, only tended to make him the ideal man and the great artist that his friends thought him. Mr. Healy had long been known and honored in social, religious and artistic circles in Chicago.”
A loan exhibition held at the Art Institute of Chicago at the end of the year included a room devoted to works by the artist. One portrait was George Armour, the Institute’s first president.
Beginning in 1900, George Louis lived with his mother and sister, Edith, on Ontario Street. Edith married Judge Hill in 1904. The couple lived with Louisa until her death of pneumonia on February 7, 1905. Louisa’s funeral was held at Holy Name Cathedral. She was buried near her husband in Calvary Cemetery.
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