A portrait of Catherine barker hickox
Hello, Fellow History Lovers!
For the last few years, a watercolor portrait of my mother, Catherine Barker Hickox, sat on the table under the tapestry in the front foyer of the Mansion. It was sent to the Mansion by my father, probably sometime in the 1970s when her childhood home had become The Barker Civic Center. The portrait in pastel colors was painted by Elizabeth Shoumatoff in the late 1940s. She was a longtime resident of Locust Valley, New York, which was near to my parents’ Long Island home. Madam Shoumatoff also painted my father’s portrait, as well as the four of us Hickox children around the same time. Later, in about the 1960s, my father commissioned her to make copies of my mother’s portrait and gave one to each of us.
Madam Shoumatoff (nee Avinoff) was born in the Ukraine, then part of the Russian Empire, and emigrated to the United States in 1917. Her father was a lieutenant general in the Imperial Russian Army. She and her husband, Leo, came to this country in 1917 when he was a member of the Russian Purchasing Commission. After the Bolshevik Revolution, they decided to stay in the United States. Following her husband’s death in 1928, Madam Shoumatoff began to paint professionally. She painted over 3,000 portraits. She was skilled not only in watercolor but also in oil.
Her talent brought her private commissions from many prominent families in America, including the Fricks, duPonts, Mellons, Phipps, and Firestones. Her best-known work is the unfinished portrait of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, which she was painting in Warm Springs, Georgia, when he died of a cerebral hemorrhage in April 1945. In 1968, President Lyndon B. Johnson and Lady Bird Johnson chose Madam Shoumatoff to paint their official White House portraits.
Sarane H. Ross