Underwood, Ethel B - portrait of a lady with a dog

This miniature is signed at the lower right "E B Underwood 1904" for Ethel B Underwood who was born in Massachusetts in June 1874. It is very unusual in that the sitter has a dog on her knee. It is the only miniature in the collection to show a pet, apart perhaps from a family group where one of the children is holding a butterfly on a string, although it is conceded it may be stretching things a little to call a butterfly a pet.

There were several people named Ethel Underwood and so it has been a little difficult to determine which one is correct. However, on balance, Ethel is believed to have been the youngest of four children of George L Underwood (1832-c1900), a physician of Boston, MA and Katherine L Luyster (Kate), (May 1839-Feb 11 1911) of New York, who were married 14 Apr 1859 in New York.

Katherine was the daughter of the prosperous Massachusetts merchant, Abraham R Luyster, also of Westfield, Richmond, NY who in the 1850 census disclosed assets of $45,000. In the 1870 census, George and Kate Underwood lived in Ward 10, Boston, disclosed assets of $15,000 and had one servant.

Ethel's brothers were George R Underwood (1863-?) a Boston purchasing agent, Herbert Thaxter Underwood (1873-?) a Boston architect, and Western Underwood (1867-?) a Los Angeles banker.

Thaxter Underwood was involved in the design of the first outdoor swimming pool built in America, in Belmont, MA and opened Jun 17, 1912. It was named the Underwood Pool for his uncle, see Town of Belmont, MA - History of the Underwood Pool He also designed the Jacobethan Revival Rectory at 676 Washington Street, Brighton which was constructed in 1913 by W.J. Larsfield of 20 Leamington Road, Brighton, from designs provided by H. Thaxter Underwood of 46 Cornhill, Boston.

In the 1900 census, and recorded as E B Underwood, Ethel lived in rented premises with her widowed mother in Manhattan, NY and described her occupation as miniature artist.

She is recorded as having exhibited at the Third Annual Exhibition of the American Society of Miniature Painters, see NY Times Feb 2, 1902 PAINTERS OF MINIATURES.; Third Annual of the American Society at ...

The exhibition included eleven miniatures by Laura Coombs Hill and four by William Jacob Baer.

Ethel seems not to have married as in the 1920 census she appears to be living in Middletown, Orange NY and gives no occupation, although she had two lodgers living with her.

No other examples of her work have been seen to date. However, she must have painted quite a number and was very competent. The painting of the dog here is very well done, as are the hands and the jewellery.

The breed is now called a Cavalier King Charles spaniel, although that name was not in use at the time the miniature was painted. Then it was a King Charles Spaniel, with the breed Cavalier King Charles being developed in the 1920's.

The breed has often been associated with Royalty and King Charles II went so far as to issue a decree that the King Charles Spaniel could not be forbidden entrance to any public place, including the Houses of Parliament. Such spaniels can be seen in many paintings of the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. These early spaniels had longer, pointier snouts and thinner-boned limbs than today's.

For much about the breed see Cavalier King Charles Spaniel - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The sitter is unknown. 1277


jgj6331 said...

I have, just today, come into a small porcelain container that
was painted by Ms. Underwood. It is a female subject in a
simple form (compared to the portrait with the dog) - and is
signed on the bottom "E,B. Underwood Nov. '99" in a hand
identical to the signature you have posted. Unfortunately, the
bottom of the container has been broken and poorly repaired
in the past - though the lid is intact and the portraiture excellent.
I would imagine the bottom could be easily restored by an
experienced craftsman. If you would like photographs, you can
reach me at (478) 960-4144. Thank you.

Don Shelton said...

Thank you for the comment, but I live in New Zealand. If you would like to send me images, please click on my profile for an email address.