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Portrait of Thomas R. Proctor

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On view

Portrait of Thomas R. Proctor

Date: 1908
Medium: Oil on canvas
Overall: 44 x 36in. (111.8 x 91.4cm)
Signed: Upper right: 'Irving R. Wiles 1908'
Credit Line: Proctor Collection
Object number: PC. 118
Label Text
Wiles painted this portrait of the sixty-four-year-old Thomas Proctor two years after completing the pendant portrait of his Thomas's wife, Maria. The Proctors were involved at this time in several philanthropic projects for their community, including the donation of land for a new public library, and an ambitious park system.

The Proctors' enthusiasm for portraiture is demonstrated by the efforts they made to ornament their home with numerous ancestral portraits, many of which are now in the Museum's collection. They also established, in 1904, the Thomas R. Proctor Prize at New York's National Academy of Design, a $200 award presented each year to the artist that a selection committee determined had painted the best portrait displayed that year in the Academy's tradition-bound annual exhibitions.

The traditional connections between femininity and nature that Wiles successfully achieved in his portrait of Maria contrasts with this more sober presentation of Thomas, who is shown in a dark, indistinct interior, holding a newspaper-a conventional emblem in portraiture signifying his role as a man of the world. The masculine aura of this work is reinforced by the Spanish, Renaissance-style chair Thomas is sitting in, called a frailero ("friar's chair"), which features plain wooden supports, a red fabric back panel and a seat fastened to the frame with large, decorative nails. The gold and carnelian signet ring on Thomas's left hand, now in the Museum's collection, has an intaglio engraved image of a dove below the Latin word, FIDELE.

The small decoration Thomas is shown proudly wearing in his left lapel is probably the red, white, and blue rosette of The Order of the Founders and Patriots of America. This hereditary society was created a decade earlier by individuals who traced their ancestry back to any colonist who settled in America prior to May 13, 1657, and whose forefathers in the same male ancestral line additionally served in the American Revolution. It was one of a number of hereditary and patriotic fraternal organizations to which Thomas belonged.

(American Couples text)
Several pictorial details that Wiles included in this pair of portraits assist the viewer in their encounter with the subjects. Maria Proctor is shown seated in an elegant, Hepplewhite-style, shield-back armchair. The book in her lap, and the evening primrose flowers on the table beside her, are gendered attributes that allude to her education and refinement. According to the "language of flowers," the evening primrose signifies "silent love." It is noteworthy that Maria is the only woman in this exhibition who is represented with such "intellectual" attributes. In the complementary portrait of Thomas Proctor, the artist depicted a gold ring on Thomas's left hand. This is likely a carnelian intaglio signet ring now in the Museum's collection. An engraved image on this ring depicts a dove holding an olive branch in its beak, a common symbol of peace. Above the dove is the word, "FIDELE," from the Latin noun fid?le, meaning "loyalty." The sentiment suggested by this word and image complements the expression of affection suggested by the evening primroses in Maria's portrait.

Presumed copyright: the artist or the artist's representative/heir(s).