Bust-length portrait. Oil on canvas, 27¼” x 23 ¼” (AR-0004)
The Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway, 2650 Lou Menk Drive, 2nd Floor, Fort Worth, Texas 76131-2830.
Town Topics, August 4, 1898
Sir Donald Alexander Smith was born in Scotland on August 6, 1820. He was one of the Canadian commercial pioneers, railroad builders and investors. He became a Canadian High Commissioner and was raised to the peerage in 1897. He owned a beautiful stone house in Dorchester Street, Montreal in 1883 which was often used in later years by diplomatic bodies. He died on January 21, 1914.
Bibliography of sitter:
Beckles Willson, The Life of Lord Strathcona and Mount Royal, 2 Vols., The Riverside Press, Cambridge, 1915
Donna McDonald, Lord Strathcona: A Biography of Donald Alexander Smith, 1996
In a letter to James J. Hill, written by the artist on June 13, 1898 from his studio in Pembroke Gardens, Kensington, London, and now in the Hill papers (Hill Family Collection, Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul), the artist writes:
‘…I started Lord Strathcona’s portrait the other day, but on account of a cold, grippe & painful neuralgia wich (sic) I picked up mooving (sic) into my newly repaired & painted Studio & rooms I had to give up working for a week – Lord Strathcona is one of the most charming and magnetic man I ever seen & I am sure that his portrait will be even more successfull (sic) than the one of Lord Mount Stephen. Lord Strathcona showed much kindness when I was ill – in coming twice to see me –
His wife was quite sick again – & if better I would have an order to paint her – I am asked to pass few weeks in Scotland where his Lordship intends to sitt for another (maybe 3/4 length) portrait…’
It is not known if he did sit for a three-quarter length at this time; he apparently did so in 1906. Anyway, this picture was destined for Hill for the artist wrote again from London on October 14, 1898 as follows:
‘My dear Mr. Hill
As I am anxious to know if the portraits of Lord Strathcona & Lord Mount Stephen arrived safely in St. Paul & if they are to your satisfaction I only send this few lines to beg you for few words regarding them…My intention is to return to New York about the end of November & then probably come to St. Paul & place myself at your entire disposal for any changes you desire on the portraits sent…’
Town Topics, August 4, 1898, reported that he had painted ‘very successful portraits of Lord and Lady Mount Royal.’ According to the Minnesota Historical Society, Hill paid Muller-Ury on 21 February 1899, $1000 each for the portraits of Lord Strathcona and Lord Mount Stephens destined for the Great Northern Railway Building.