DALY, Mary [“Molly”] Augusta (Later Mrs James Watson Gerard)


Description:
Said to be a three-quarter length.

Location:
Destroyed.

Bibliography:
New York Times, December 20, 1899
New York Journal, January 21, 1900 (reproduced).
Evander Berry Wall, Neither Pest Nor Puritan, 1940, p. 236

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Notes

The sitter (born 13 January 1875, died 18 January 1956) was the daughter of Copper magnate Marcus Daly. She married James Watson Gerard and was living at the American Embassy in Berlin in 1916 and in 1921 at 1015 Fifth Avenue, New York. Her husband died at Southampton, Long Island, on September 6, 1952.

The sitter’s mother, Margaret Evans Daly, after the death of her husband, wrote a bitter-sweet letter of complaint and praise to the artist following commissions for portraits of her two daughters, Margaret and Mary which presumably were made by her husband. Written on black-edged notepaper from 725, Fifth Avenue, New York, the letter (artist’s papers) is a fascinating insight into Gilded Age expectations, artistic failure and success (unfortunately it is undated, but must be 1901):

‘Mr. Muller Ury

Dear Sir

I am sorry indeed if my note as you say was a disagreeable surprise to you, and I wish to assure you it was not intended to be disagreeable, our little difference is simply a business affair, and I wish to tell you I had no thought of treating you as you say I did as though you were an adventurer, if you will think it all over, I think you will find that your two last notes to me were very unjust. My under-standing of the matter is this. You asked me to pay you for Mrs. Brown’s portrait that you had not finished and had not been accepted by her which I refused to do. You then sent me bill for the Frame that I also refused to pay and gave you my reasons for so doing. My daughter Mary’s Portrait was paid for almost two years before we had any thing to show for the money, until I took the Portrait which you painted of Mr. Daly which had never been ordered. My daughter Mary’s Portrait you destroyed.  You were not asked to do so by any member of the family, you admitted it was a failure, so why blame the Family for all the trouble you had with it. Mr. Daly’s picture I took because it pleased me. I think it extremely good, to me the likeness is about perfect, and I want to tell you what a pleasure it is to me. I told you the other day how good I thought it was and how much everyone who had seen it liked it. Trusting it will not be necessary to write you further on this subject.

                             I am very sincerely, Margaret P. Daly’

The artist’s friend, the great dandy Evander Berry Wall, records in his memoirs relating to this portrait:

‘Why…should I find myself suddenly remembering my old friend Muller-Ury, the portrait painter who transferred to canvas most of the society women of my younger days? I remember being in his studio when he was trying to finish a portrait of Marcus Daly’s daughter – the one who married Jimmie Gerard, who became a Judge and then our Ambassador to Germany – and how Muller-Ury was dissatisfied with it, and how, to my astonishment, he took up a knife and slashed the portrait to ribbons’. Did Muller-Ury ever paint another picture of Mary Daly Gerard? Wall merely says at the start of the next paragraph, ‘Whether he ever made a fresh attempt I do not know…’


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