The Business of Bodies: Ellen Emmet Rand (1875-1941)

The Business of Bodies: Ellen Emmet Rand (1875-1941) and the Persuasion of Portraiture
October 25, 2018 to March 10, 2019

Opening Reception: Thursday, October 25, 4 – 6:30 pm.
Music by Survivors Swing Band.

Guest curated by Alexis Boylan, Associate Director, Humanities Institute and Associate Professor of Art History and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Program.

Ellen Emmet Rand was one of the most important and prolific portrait painters in the United States in the first decades of the twentieth century. If you were in government, business, the arts, a society woman, or even President Franklin Delano Roosevelt—and you could afford her fee—a Rand portrait was a signal of power and style. She re-envisioned the look of wealth, class, and business in her paintings. Yet, despite completing over 700 portraits and being one of the highest-paid female artists of her time, her reputation and acclaim all but disappeared after her death. This exhibition looks to assert Rand’s crucial place in the history of American art and critically consider the ways this artist negotiated her own career, family, and finances in modern, commercially-savvy ways.

The Business of Bodies will constitute the most significant assessment of Rand and her portraiture to date. Featuring the collection of Rand oil paintings, drawings, and photographs from the William Benton Museum of Art’s permanent collection, and works borrowed from museums and private collections, this exhibition looks to explore Rand’s work, and the business of painting portraits.

Support for conservation of some works, the exhibition publication, and the Rand conference was granted by the Luce Foundation.

FREE and open to the public. RSVP recommended: 860.486.4520 or email:
Check our calendar for more information on these programs.

Dialogue with William Harris
Tuesday, November 27, 2018  5:30 pm
Alexis Boylan engages in a dialogue with William Harris as he talks about his collecting of Ellen Emmet Rand paintings, his love of portraiture, and connections between Rand and President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
William Ashley Harris has spent almost thirty years in the archival profession at the state and national level.  The majority of his career has been spent with the Presidential Library System operated by the National Archives.  He served as a founding archivist of the George H. W. Bush Presidential Library, as a senior director in the Office of Presidential Libraries, and currently as the deputy director of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library.

Salon at The Benton: Art and Conversation
Who is the Real Subject of the Portrait? Sitter? Society? Artist?
Friday, March 1, 2019. 5:00-7:00pm
Whom or what does a portrait memorialize? What message or mood does the portrait convey? Is the image fashioned by the sitter and/or the artist? How is a portrait influenced by social trends? Can we interpret the portrait today in the ways that the artist and sitter intended in the past? If you were to have your portrait crafted, what self-image would you want to memorialize through pose, attire, objects, and other means? What’s your “brand”? From the Mona Lisa to “selfies,” this salon will explore these issues through the portraits by Ellen Emmet Rand (currently on exhibit—will be by then), some other portraits in the Benton collection, the acumen of our panel, and engaging questions and feedback from our audience.
Panelists: Pamela Bramble, Art History, Michael Bradford, Drama and Susan Spiggle (emeritus, School of Business)
Moderator:  Veronica Makowsky

In the Studio
Painting by Ellen Emmet Rand titled “In the Studio”. 1920. Oil on Canvas.Gift of John A., William B., and Christopher T.E. Rand, William Benton Museum of Art.
Ellen Emmet Rand, Mrs. John Potter" 1940. Oil on Canvas. Museum collection.
Ellen Emmet Rand, Mrs. John Potter” 1940. Oil on Canvas. Museum collection.