Seated beneath trees, wearing a row of pearls. Oil on canvas, signed and dated 1928.
Private Collection, Beverly Hills, California, USA.
The sitter was born on 3 July 1882 in Keithsburg, Illinois, the daughter of Thomas Alvin Marshall (1856–1922) and Elizabeth Cabeen Marshall (1856-1918) and married advertising executive William Thomas Kester in 1902. She died in Los Angeles on 10 January 1978, aged 95.
According to Bertram Thurnher, in a letter of June 29, 1980 to Mrs. J. M. Kester from his home in Corona del Mar, California, he spoke to Maude Kester in December 1976, when Mrs Kester told him that she had seventeen sittings from Muller-Ury, but her husband could not bear to sit for more than three. (This reference by courtesy of Mr. Tom Kester, the sitter’s grandson, in 1991.)
A letter in the artist’s papers, written by the sitter’s husband from 1015 Oak Grove Avenue, Pasadena on August 19, 1928 refers to this picture:
‘My dear Mr. Ury –
If I could put into words and expression of my delight in the wonderful portrait you have painted of Mrs. Kester, you would know how truly grateful I am to you. To me it is a beautiful picture of her, but I know to even those who do not know her, it is a beautiful painting. You are an artist, my dear Mr. Ury.
Next to my family it is my greatest treasure. I hope you will consider me your friend.
Sincerely, W. T. Kester.’
The duotone photograph in the artist’s papers is stamped ‘Keystone Photo Service, 1231 South Olive Street, Los Angeles, Cal.’