Tag Archives: Kate Wood

Frances Langford Portrait Reveals Story of Early Fame

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When curator Chessy Ricca of Stuart’s Elliott Museum contacted Alchemy Fine Art Restorers to bring a portrait of Frances Langford (1913-2005) back to its full measure of beauty, it gave Kate Wood of Alchemy Fine Arts the opportunity to restore a painting that embodies multiple aspects of America’s entertainment heritage.

It also hit close to home. Although Langford entertained fans around the world, her heart was fond of Florida; and two decades after her death, she remains a beloved figure on the Treasure Coast.

Frances Langford by Charles E. Rubino before being professionally conserved by Alchemy Fine Art Restorers.
Portrait of Frances Langford before conservation.
Airbrushed portrait of radio and movie star Frances Langford after professional conservation by Kate Wood of Alchemy Fine Art Restorers.
After cleaning and repairs by Kate Wood.

Kate Wood carefully conserving other fine art paintings from the Elliott.

“It was an honor to help save this lovely painting. The tears and pressure dings were so deep that the canvas had to be removed from its stretcher bars and lined with a fresh canvas to stabilize it. After a deep clean and some major repairs, Frances Langford’s beauty and star power really emerged.”

Kate Wood, owner and lead restorer at Alchemy Fine Arts

The Purpose Behind the Painting

Examining the portrait, Kate recognized that it was designed as a magazine cover. Not only was there plenty of blank space around the main subject, but the artist also left pencil strokes along the canvas edge to mark the placement of design elements.

Cover illustration is a familiar field to patrons of the Elliott. The museum featured a comprehensive collection of similarly purposed works by Norman Rockwell and his mentor, J.C. Leyendecker in 2022-2023. That show helped foster an appreciation of the role magazine illustration played in the evolution of fine art technique. The above portrait of Frances Langford fits into that narrative, not only as an example of early airbrush work, but also as a precursor to the pop art portraiture of later artists.

However, because it was unsigned, the specific artist and publication behind this painting remained a mystery. To help solve it, Kate enlisted her husband — writer Greg Leatherman — to fill in the gaps. His research revealed interesting details about this portrait in relation to Frances Langford’s ascent to fame.

Langford and Rudy Vallée in a publicity still from the Miami Herald on 21 Jun 1931.

Discovering a Star

Born in Lakeland, Florida, Frances Langford’s career took off early in 1931 — when she was still just sixteen years old — after famed crooner Rudy Vallée heard her on a Tampa radio station. The affable megastar invited Langford to sing on his radio program at WNBC New York (chaperoned by her mother). Aside from a knack for introducing new talent to his massive audience, Vallée was also a keen advisor who guided Langford through early business decisions, such as turning down the first offer she received and holding out for better terms.

Langford’s captivating voice and physical beauty made her a crowd pleaser. Typically backed by radio orchestras, she performed on stations across America, and in December 1933, she hosted her own radio special on WNBC. It was the first of many.

Discovering an Artist

Frances Langford was featured on the cover of Radio Guide in June 1935. Founded by the Hearst publishing empire, the useful guide combined radio schedules with celebrity news. Today’s readers know this influential weekly by its modern name: TV Guide.

Rubino from Air in the Realm of Art; Paasche Bulletin W7-38.

One of countless magazine covers Langford graced, it’s of interest here because it carries the signature of Charles E. Rubino (1896 – 1973). Rubino served as the art director for Hearst Publications in New York for many years and created covers for Radio Guide from at least 1935-1937.

The Italian-born Rubino was not only a talented illustrator, but he also helped change the way magazines looked by demonstrating that the airbrush was perfectly suited to magazine illustration. The artist’s considerable skill with this tool was undoubtably a deciding factor when Radio Guide switched from black and white cover photos to Rubino’s full-color portraits in February 1935. Across the next two years, Radio Guide would feature Langford for three of these covers. As Greg would soon discover, these covers were the keys that would unlock the mystery behind the restored portrait.

Unsigned Langford on the October 31, 1936, cover of Radio Guide.
Langford by C.E. Rubino on the June 08, 1935 cover of Radio Guide.

Charles E. Rubino’s signature from the June 1935 cover of Radio Guide.

Silver Screen Inspiration Behind the Portrait

The painting featured in this post was inspired by one of Langford’s first big movie roles. As a publicity piece, it’s emblematic of how the Golden Age of Radio and the studio system of Hollywood intertwined during the Great Depression.

In the 1930s, performances on both the airwaves and the silver screen were turning singers like Bing Crosby, Dick Powell, Alice Faye, and Rudee Vallée into huge crossover stars. Like them, Langford’s radio success led to her own movie roles. This led to her being one of an elite group of performers awarded stars on the Hollywood Star Walk for both film and radio.

Still from Broadway Melody of 1936.

Having already appeared in a Broadway show and two short films, Langford burst into movie fame in August 1935. That’s when America first saw her perform her signature song, “I’m in the Mood for Love,” in Paramount’s Every Night at Eight. The melodic standard proved so popular that other artists rushed to record their own versions. Several of these charted in 1935, and it’s since been covered by countless performers — but in the hearts of movie lovers, the song will forever be associated with Ms. Langford.

MGM studios built on the publicity around Langford’s performance by casting the young starlet as herself in Broadway Melody of 1936, which was released just seven weeks later. The jazzy musical did well at the box office and was nominated for three Academy Awards. Once again, Frances Langford delivered a fabulous performance.

In light of this success, Radio Guide selected Langford to grace another cover of their publication. This time, the artist used her appearance in Broadway Melody of 1936 as a model. As seen below, it resulted in the painting now housed at the Elliott Museum.

The February 15, 1936, cover of Radio Guide. Frances Langford’s ruby red tuxedo and romantic songs made her the perfect choice for a magazine issued the week of Valentine’s Day.

In her top hat and tails, Frances Langford performs “Broadway Rhythm” in Broadway Melody of 1936.

Everybody Knew Her Name

After The Hit Parade, Radio Guide readers voter Langford their top female star of 1937.

Every radio network and movie studio in America wanted Langford. By the time 1936 ended, she appeared in two more movies for Paramount and another for MGM. She did all this while starring on CBS radio’s Hollywood Hotel, which led to a 1937 supporting role in Warner Brothers’ film version, and a lead role in Republic’s The Hit Parade, which reprised her top hat look.

Even MGM’s Our Gang got in on the Langford craze when two of its child stars sang “I’m In the Mood for Love” in a short comedy that combined elements of Every Night at Eight and Broadway Melody of 1936.

Langford’s Lasting Impact

Radio Guide printed a photogravure of Langford in August 1938.

The portrait restored by Kate Wood was painted at a pivotal point in the career of Frances Langford. Working with the biggest stars of her time, she recorded numerous American standards, appeared in several classic musicals, and made millions laugh and cry. But she was far more than a celebrity.

During World War II, Langford struck an emotional chord with American G.I.’s while performing with Bob Hope’s U.S.O. Troop. She also wrote a Hearst newspapers syndicated column about her visits to wounded soldiers.

Langford’s smoldering voice, natural charm, and elegance fueled her career as a radio host, actor, and singer well-into the 1950s. She was also intelligent. In 1955, as rock and roll took over the radio waves, she went into semi-retirement in Florida where she enjoyed fishing and boating on the Indian River.

In Martin County, Langford is remembered as a generous philanthropist who founded the Outrigger Resort at Jensen Beach in 1961 (along with husband Ralph Evinrude). Thanks to Langford, the resort drew fans (and luminaries) from around the world. She performed there for decades.

See the Restored Portrait

As we communicated these discoveries about how Radio Guide‘s cover portrait of Langford fit into the arc of her early fame, curator Chessy Ricca of Stuart’s Elliott Museum shared some exciting news of her own.

The restored portrait featured in this post will be part of Elliott Museum exhibit celebrating the life of Frances Langford later in 2024. This welcome news comes as no surprise to those who’ve visited the museum’s Outrigger Café and Exhibit, which already features selected objects from her life. We’re curious to see what other forgotten treasures Ms. Ricca finds in the Elliott archives.

As regular patrons of this invaluable institution, the team at Alchemy Fine Art Restorers encourages you to visit this special exhibit and pay tribute to the “Florida Thrush,” aka the “Songbird of the Air,” aka the “Moonglow Girl,” and the “Sweetheart of the Fighting Fronts,” the unforgettable Frances Langford.

Kate Wood’s “Teaism” Selected for Gilt Complex Art Showcase

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“Teaism” by Kate Wood is one of four paintings in the 2022 Storefront Art Showcase.

Stuart, Florida’s premier framer and conservator shopthe Gilt Complex—hosts the contest. To recognize the winners, they display vibrant, oversized prints of the selected art in their storefront windows. The showcase runs through 2022. There will also be a public event to promote the display on Friday, January 7, from 5 to 9 pm.

Kate Wood owns Alchemy Fine Art Restorers. She also teaches painting at Alizarin Crimson Art Studio.

The other three artists selected are Kathleen Denis, Rich West, and Kim Rody. As you can see below, they are each highly skilled painters.

After selecting the winners, the Gilt Complex digitally framed, printed, and installed each painting in their storefront windows. Drivers on S. Colorado Ave in Stuart can spot the art while driving but must stop at the Gilt Complex to appreciate these high-quality paintings.

The public is invited to check out the showcase in person during Stuart’s First Friday Artwalk event, January 7, or to stop by the Gilt Complex at 608 S. Colorado Ave, Stuart at their convenience. The Gilt Complex has an extensive collection of fantastic frames, fine art, artisanal gifts, and much more, including a helpful and knowledgeable staff!

The contest is not a one-off event. Each year, the Gilt Complex staff selects four new artists to display in their showcase. Kate Wood, who has produced numerous public art projects throughout her career, says these displays are a great boon to the visibility of local artists.

“It’s wonderful that the Gilt Complex creates such a terrific, public-facing showcase,” said Kate Wood. “I’m thankful that Duncan, Pam, Katie, and Alex selected my work for display.”

Kate Wood’s Art Exhibited at Elliot Museum

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As part of the Elliot Museum‘s efforts to showcase the very best local talent, Alchemy Fine Arts owner Kate Wood has been selected as one of the painters to be featured in their latest art exhibit.

The opening for the Elliott Museum’s Portfolios – Eclectic Artists and Art will be held Thursday, October 15 from 5:30 to 7:00 p.m. All art lovers are invited to attend and the rest of the museum will also be open to visitors. The exhibit will be installed through January 4, 2021.

Art from local artists will be featured at the Elliot museum from Oct. 15, 2020 to Jan. 4, 2021. Seen in this collage is Kate Wood’s motorcycle oil-painting, entitled, “Classic.”

The exhibit highlights the artwork of artists from the Stuart area. Artwork will be in a variety of media, styles, techniques, and subjects.  Painting, sculpture, photography, glasswork and jewelry will be included, with approaches ranging from traditional, to contemporary, to the unexpected. 

In light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, attendees are asked to wear a mask and practice social distancing during the event.

All art presented during this showcase will be for sale, with a portion of the proceeds benefitting the Elliott Museum. Complimentary refreshments will also be served, along with a cash beer and wine bar.

“Waiting, Lafayette Station” by Kate Wood is one of the original art works that will be on display at the Elliott Museum beginning October 15, 2020.

Artist Included in the Exhibit:

  1. Kate Wood
  2. Laura Kay Whiticar Darvill
  3. Dot Galfond
  4. Linda Geary
  5. Kevin Hutchinson
  6. Denise Justice
  7. Carol Kepp
  8. Livia Krof-Debonet
  9. Mia Lindberg
  10. Brent McAhren
  11. Sue Ann Mosley
  12. Kim Nolan
  13. Bruce Wells
  14. Dale Beam

The Elliott Museum offers a variety of collections, including vintage cars, baseball artifacts, artwork, Americana, rotating exhibits in the Changing Exhibitions Gallery, an art studio with classes, a theater, a tribute to local philanthropists Frances Langford and Ralph Evinrude, a Museum Store, a student art exhibit, and much more. Kate Wood has previously performed professional art conservation services for the Elliot Museum.

The new Elliott Museum opened in 2013. Aside from its permanent exhibits, the museum regularly hosts art shows like the one Kate Wood will participate in during October 2020.

The Historical Society of Martin County is the parent organization of the Elliott Museum and House of Refuge Museum. While the Elliott wows guests with its renowned car and baseball collections, the House of Refuge showcases what life was like in turn-of-the-century Florida. Both museums showcase a variety of exhibits, collections, and lectures of interest to those who live in and visit Florida’s Treasure Coast.

Marties Award Nomination

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Kate Wood, owner of Alchemy Fine Art Restorers, has been nominated for a Marties award via the Martin County Arts Council in the category of Adult Visual Artist.

“Over the years, the Marties have recognized many talented artists, generous patrons, and devoted leaders in our community. I consider this award nomination a true honor,” said Ms. Wood.

Kate Wood is a photo-realist artist working in multiple mediums. Her art has been exhibited in galleries since the 1990s, with shows all over the US, including Denver, West Palm Beach, Eugene, Tampa and New Orleans. Kate also teaches oil painting at Alizarin Crimson Studio in Stuart, FL. A sampling of her latest paintings can be viewed here. Kate is active in the arts community, having participated in grant writing for restoration projects, conserving public art, community open house events, and educational outreach.


In addition to the 2016 Marties nominees in the arts categories, several notable persons will received named awards at this year’s event, including a Lifetime Achievement Award for John Whitney Payson, an Excellence in the Arts Award for Lynne Barletta, and a Philanthropy in the Arts Award for Community Foundation for Palm Beach and Martin Counties. Sharon Ferina, Carol Kepp and Nancy Steinberg will be recognized for Arts Leadership and a Corporate Leadership Award goes to Electrical Connections. Special Recognition will also be given to the Hobe Sound Mural Project as led by Nadia Utto.

Persons honored with award nominations in performing arts categories will entertain attendees. Art from the visual nominees will be displayed at the event. A full list of award nominations is available at the Martin County Arts Council Facebook page.

2016 marks the second year in a row that Ms. Wood has attended the Marties Awards gala. Last year, one of her painting students at Alizarin Crimson Studio (the talented Ms. Kelly Campbell) was honored with an award nomination in the Student Visual Artist category.

Environmental Studies Center Canvas Backdrop Restoration

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Conservator Kate Wood of Alchemy Fine Art Restorers recently restored a theater backdrop at the Environmental Studies Center in Jensen Beach, Florida.  To fund this work, Alchemy was awarded a grant by Women Supporting the Arts (WSA) in conjunction with the Wilmington Trust.

Work in progress


This rewarding project was a challenge due to the fragile nature of the canvas mural. The hanging and lift systems were extremely corroded.  The canvas was stained and ripped, and the original artist had used water soluble poster paints in several places, which were now smeared and were a challenge to address. However,  these elements were successfully treated and the following repairs made:

  • Reinforced paint loss areas with acid free gesso on the reverse side of the canvas.
  • Created and installed a buffer for the sharp edge of the of the bottom roll bar. This will prevent future damage as the backdrop is raised.
  • Patched holes using new canvas and acid free glue. The top of the backdrop was reinforced with a long strip of canvas to repair and prevent tearing.
  • Replaced both sides of the rusted lift system wires with non-rusting, plastic coated heavy-duty wire.
  • Removed old hanging lumber and replaced with a single continuous bar.
  • Matched paint and touched up missing and dirty areas of paint.
  • Created a new secure hanging system and rehang the backdrop.

WSA’s mission is to build a community of women philanthropists who inspire, educate and encourage women to strengthen the arts and cultural environment in Martin County. The Environmental Resource Center is a valuable educational resource for the Treasure Coast. Alchemy’s restoration enhanced he Center, which builds environmental awareness among the students of Martin County. Alchemy Fine Art Restorers approaches restoration using the least invasive techniques possible.

Kate Wood has painted numerous murals and theater backgrounds in the Treasure Coast area. This canvas backdrop restoration project revisited those roots while also showcasing her world-class conservation skills. Kate has also taught oil painting to area students of all ages for two decades and is an accomplished artist.

Alchemy Fine Art Restorers thanks Women Supporting the Arts and Wilmington Trust for this grant and for the ongoing work both organizations do to better the arts in our local community!



Wood Shield Restoration

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In partnership with our friends at Pierce-Archer, Alchemy Fine Art Restorers conserved a painted wood shield for Bethesda-by-the-Sea in Palm Beach, Florida. This gorgeous Episcopal church–the oldest in Palm Beach–is on the National Registry of Historical Places.

Bethesda-by-the-Sea dates from 1889, which also makes it the oldest Protestant Church in South Florida. Kate Wood has treated several works of art from the interior of the church over the past five years, but this case was different . . .

Exposed to the elements outside of the Church office for 90 years, the wood shield disintegrated due to dry rot and sun damage to the point of falling to the ground. Alchemy restored this beautiful object to its former glory to be enjoyed by generations to come in the Parish Hall. The church is open to visitors and is well worth the visit. Stop by when you are in Palm Beach.

Please, enjoy these amazing before and after images.


The body of the damaged wood shield during restoration.


The damaged shield after 90 years of Florida weather.

The damaged wood shield after 90 years of Florida weather.


The Restored Shield






Alchemy Wins “Women Supporting the Arts” Grant

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Alchemy Fine Art Restorers, a woman-owned small business, has been awarded a grant by Women Supporting the Arts (WSA), a program of the Arts Foundation of Martin County.   Alchemy’s proposal to repair, restore, and re-hang a damaged 9 x 16 foot canvas mural in the Environmental Studies Center received funding for 2015.

“I am honored to receive the Women Supporting the Arts Grant. My main goal is to retain the original look of the artifact, but make look as if it were just painted,” said Kate Wood, owner Alchemy Fine Art Restorers.

WomanArtsWSA’s mission is to build a community of women philanthropists who inspire, educate and encourage women to strengthen the arts and cultural environment in Martin County.

The Environmental Resource Center  is a valuable educational resource for the Treasure Coast. Alchemy’s restoration will enhance the Center, which builds environmental awareness among the students of Martin County.

Alchemy Fine Art Restorers approaches restoration using the least invasive techniques possible. As the work progresses, Kate will document the entire process, which will be shared with visitors to this site, as well as with local media. Kate Wood has painted numerous murals and theater backgrounds in the Treasure Coast area. This project revisits those roots while also showcasing her world-class conservation skills.

Since 2004, more than $201,000 in grants have been awarded to artists and arts-related programs by Women Supporting the Arts (WSA).  WSA welcomes grant applications from organizations and individuals who present cultural programs for Martin County. Collaborative projects and events are eligible.

Applications are judged on the following criteria:

  • Value to the community in strengthening the arts
  • Merit of the program, project, scholarship, or internship
  • Increase of public awareness and participation in the arts
  • Partnerships and collaborations with existing community resources

For more information on Kate’s approach, see “Restoring Beauty: An illuminating interview with painter, teacher, and master art conservator Kate Wood” at fineartrestorers.com/restoringbeauty.

For more information on Women Supporting the Arts, visit their website at www.martinarts.org/support_us/women_supporting_arts.html.

Pharoah’s Horses

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“The Pharoah’s Horses” is an 1848 work by British painter John Fredrick Herring Sr.

In partnership with our good friends at Palm City Art and Frame, Alchemy Fine Art Restorers worked on a well-executed, but damaged copy of this famous image.

The owner of this damaged painting knew it was a copy, but appreciated the work as a decorative piece, as he should have. Such popular images are frequently copied by students and admiring amateurs.  Typically, there is no intent to deceive. Rather, these works are used as teaching tools by the aspiring artist. In this case, the painter was a relative of the owner.

Pharoah’s Horses: An Iconic Image

“The Pharoah’s Horses” is one of the most popular images of all time!  It has decorated countless parlors for over a century and is a popular tattoo.  Antiques Roadshow lists it as one of the most copied paintings. In fact, it was once so ubiquitous that it is included in the background of Norman Rockwell’s “Solitaire” (1950).

Does this mean a copy is always worthless?  Perhaps not. A year after Herring’s work sold at auction for almost half-a-million dollars, a man bought what he thought was a copy for $25 at a Missouri flea market (1987). After painstaking research into the paint and canvas chemistry of this flea market find, it was postulated that the Herring painting might itself be a copy of an earlier work.  Suddenly, the flea market copy was the original and the original a copy!

Alchemy Fine Art Restorers can’t determine which was original without examining the paintings first-hand, but you have to admit, it’s an interesting story.

Here’s hoping you find your own flea market treasure.  In the mean time, enjoy some images from our restoration of “Pharoah’s Horses.”

The damaged, dirty painting.

The damaged, dirty painting. The canvas was torn in multiples spots.


Cleaning in progress, showing half and half.

The restored and cleaned Pharoah's Horses

The fully restored and cleaned Pharoah’s Horses.


The Art and Science of Color Mixing

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A Color Mixing Workshop with Kate Wood

This hands-on color mixing workshop explores oil paint color combinations and how to use color theory to make natural looking paintings. This class will discuss and use color coding and chemical coding of oil paints. Expert instruction explains how paint chemistry works and which pigments to avoid to ensure the lasting beauty of your oil paintings.

The workshop is offered in two sessions. The morning session covers color coding, color mixing and color theory. The afternoon covers advanced color mixing, value scales and paint chemistry.

Cost is $75 for the full day workshop.

Sign-up with Kate Wood (772) 287-0835.

Kate Wood teaching color mixing.

Kate Wood teaching color mixing.

Supplies to Bring:

Freezer Paper, Masking Tape. Palette Knife, Paper Towels, Notebook/Pen/Sharpie

Recommended Colors to Bring:

No student brands, like Winton or “hue” pigments. You can substitute with paint colors that you use more commonly.

  • Titanium White
  • Cadmium Yellow Light
  • Yellow Ochre
  • Cadmium Red Light or Grumbacher (Napthol) Red
  • Thalo Rose or Alizarin Crimson
  • Sap Green
  • Thalo Green
  • Ultramarine Blue
  • Thalo Blue
  • Burnt Sienna
  • Burnt Umber

Alchemy Fine Art Restorers in Stuart, FL, provides a full range of world-class art conservation and restoration. With over a decade of conservation experience and over two decades as a working artist, owner Kate Wood is a highly skilled technician. She expertly treats paintings on canvas, as well as conserving paper, pottery, leather, porcelain, woven fabric, and wooden objects. Kate is the only conservator on the Treasure Coast with the advanced painting, sculpting, and workshop skills to restore such a range. She cares about your precious objects and takes pride in returning them to their full measure of beauty.

Ancestral Portraits and Yellow Fever on the Bayou

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One of the joys of restoration is discovering the history of a painting; and nothing has more history than ancestral portraits. Kate Wood of Alchemy Fine Art Restorers (with some help from her researcher husband) looked into the origins of two nineteenth century portraits of the Thibodaux Family.  What she found led her into a fascinating world of Civil War plunder, society painters, and the tragic impacts of Yellow Fever.

The Thibodaux family, which included several prominent politicians, were a leading Acadian family of Old Louisiana for whom the county seat of Lafourche Parish is named.  Family legend relates that both portraits were water-damaged during the Civil War when they removed from the wall and hidden deep in the swamps by Marguerite Bridget (Thibodaux) Tucker and her husband Joseph Pennington Tucker.  Interestingly, between 1863 and 1867, three siblings of the Thibodaux family married three siblings of the Tucker family.  Our first assumption was that the paintings were of “Bridget” and her husband Joseph.  But who painted them?

Portrait of Joseph Pennington Tucker - Before Restoration

Portrait of Husband – Before Restoration

Portrait of Joseph Pennington Tucker - After Restoration

Portrait of Husband – After Restoration


Portrait of Marguerite Bridget (Thibodaux) Tucker - Before Restoration

Portrait of Wife – Before Restoration

Portrait of Marguerite Bridget (Thibodaux) Tucker - After Restoration

Portrait of Wife – After Restoration


In researching the artist who may have painted these portraits, the first thing Kate noted was the lack of a signature, and loss of the large cap frame, which is not uncommon.  Secondly, Kate noted the high quality of the work, which makes it unlikely that this was the work of an itinerant painter (limner).  It has all the hallmarks of a society portrait artist.

Close up of water damage

Closeup of water damage

Close up of water damage

Repaired section

Repaired section






Two well-known candidates painted in New Orleans during the period suggested by the subjects’ attire and other attributes of the work (the late 1830s to 1860).   While Kate took a long look at society portrait artist Jean Joseph Vaudechamp, the most likely artist for these portraits is Jacques Guillaume Lucien Amans. Widely considered the most important portrait painter in New Orleans at this time, Amans painted many of the prominent families of the day, including a number of Louisiana politicians. A portrait he rendered of Andrew Jackson shows his marked tendency for neo-classical backgrounds.

Amans also had a knack for developing sensitive, expressive  faces, as  exhibited in these restored examples. Also note a similar handling in the painting of the hands, as well as the poses used to depict the sitter.  Most importantly, after leaving New Orleans in the mid-1840sAmans lived quite near the Thibodaux family for about a decade before returning to France in 1856.

The problem here is that Marguerite Bridget Thibodaux was ten when the artist moved back to France, and according to famed Art Historian William H. Gerdts (in Art Across America: Two Centuries of Regional Painting: 1710-1920), Jacques Amans never returned to Louisiana.

This pointed us to Marguerite Bridget Thibodaux’s father, Henry Hubert Claiborne Thibodaux, who was elected to the Louisiana State Legislature in 1834, who  was appointed probate judge for Terrebonne in 1845, and who according to legend was the first white male born in Terrebonne Parish. Unfortunately, he died of Yellow Fever at age 45 on November 11, 1855.  He is buried in St. Bridget’s Cemetery in Houma, LA.

Not only does he fit the typical profile for a portrait subject by Amans, but he fits the time period.  It makes perfect sense that his daughter, who was nine when he died, would have  not only hidden and protected his painting, but would have taken such care of it afterwards that it survived to modern times.  This makes the likely candidate for the female portrait Henry Thibodaux’s wife Mathilda  (Toups) Thibodaux (1819-1863), whom Henry married in 1838 and who’s family had already been in Louisiana for a century by the time these portraits were painted.

Furthermore, it is highly likely that Yellow Fever, which was ravaging the south, including Thibodaux, Louisiana in the 1850s, was the painter‘s primary reason for leaving Louisiana (only months after Henry Hubert Claiborne Thibodaux’s death).

Lastly, evidence of Amans’ connection to the Thibodaux family includes the authorship of a thesis on Jacques Guillaume Lucien Amans by Tulane University student Mary Louise (Trammel) Tucker  in 1970.  She is very likely a descendent of Mary Louise Tucker – one of the three Tucker siblings to marry Thibodaux siblings between 1863 and 1867.

The Plot Thickens

After we did this research, the owner of the paintings followed up by contacting Nicholls State University, located in Thibodaux, Louisiania.  Archivist Clive Theriot confirmed that the restored paintings were of Henry Claiborne Thibodaux and Mathilde Marie Toups, per a photograph held in the University’s collections.  He noted that paintings also exist of Henry Schuyler Thibodaux (1769-1827) and his wife, Brigitte Thibodaux (nee Belanger).  Henry S. founded the town of Thibodaux, was a President of the Louisiana Senate, and even served briefly as the 4th Governor of Louisiana.

However, Theriot was unable to confirm the name of the painter for any of these portraits.

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