Monday, February 23, 2015

Miss Sadie Waters, Saint Louis, Missouri

Miss Sadie Waters...since first seeing her life-sized monument in Saint Louis'

beautiful Victorian/Edwardian "Garden" cemetery, Bellefontaine, in 2003,

I have been fascinated.

Until just a few days ago, however, when my Instagram friend Amy asked

 me if I knew her history, I had to say I did not.


Oh, I had wondered about her...she was so young, and there was an artist's

palette at the head of her tomb; that detail resonated with me and I decided 

that she was my "muse"... thereafter taking photos of her reclining bronze 

figure in all seasons, from all angles. Always adding to the pennies

folks left in her hands and on her gown.

Still, I hadn't really questioned who she was...

(although a beloved daughter to have such an exquisite tribute...)

Then, when stopping in the cemetery's office one trip, I bought both

books they offered ~ Bellefontaine's own booklet, "A Journey Through History",

and Carol Ferring Shepley's "Movers and Shakers, Scalawags and Suffragettes ~

Tales from Bellefontaine Cemetery"...those were both interesting reads,

but nary a mention of Miss Sadie in either of them... I was sure she would be,

if only for the uniqueness of her monument!


So, I went online to see what I could find...

(First, if I had an extra $350k lying around, Miss Sadie's portrait

would be mine...)
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Miss Sadie's portrait is in Adelson Galleries in New York City, and can be seen directly, here.

Artist; Francis Davis (Frank) Millet
(American, 1846-1912)


Title: Portrait of Sadie P.Waters
(April, 1888, New York City)


Medium: Oil on Canvas
(31" x 49" ~ 124.5 x 78.7 cm)


Price: $350,000.00

Executed during the years Millet divided his time between America and England,

the artist painted Sadie, the nineteen-year-old daughter of prominent Saint Louis

industrialist William H.Waters, before she left to study art in France.

Although Millet concentrated on genre scenes at the time, he was likely encouraged

to paint Sadie because she possessed the open, rather dreamy look of the models he

often used, as well as because of the prominence of her family (her father founded

the Waters-Pierce Oil Company with Henry Clay Pierce, which eventually became

part of the famed Standard Oil Trust).

Noted critic Marianna Van Rensselaer singled out the present work in her review

of the National Academy's 1889 annual exhibition. describing Millet's submission

as "a delicate and refined figure of a charming maiden in a lavender gown".

"In addition to capturing the pensive, rather faraway expression on Sadie's youthful

face, Millet depicts her costume in meticulous detail. Here, the rich texture and

soft folds of the pale lavender-grey fabric contrast with the lighter floral print of

the layer below, reflecting and absorbing light in a display of painterly skill.

Though small, the exquisitely detailed fresh rose on Sadie's hand gives emphasis

to the colors in her face, creating a vibrant and luminous composition from the

basic elements of a society portrait."


Soon after the present portrait was painted. Sadie Waters left to study painting

in Paris. She apparently resided there for most of her remaining years,

achieving the notable success of an honorable mention at the 1900 Paris

Exposition Universelle for one of her miniatures. Sadly, she experienced what

must certainly have been the high point of her career in the same year that she

died, prematurely, at the age of 30.

(Other records show that Sadie's age should have been 32; she was born in
1867 instead of 1869.)


Millet, a Harvard University graduate who studied at Antwerp's Royal Academy

of Art, traveled the world as a war correspondent and illustrator. In 1884, he

visited the art colony at Broadway, Worcestershire, England, and soon purchased

a house and studio in the village. For years thereafter, he divided his time between

England and his native United States, meeting an untimely death as a passenger on

the ill-fated Titanic crossing of 1912.


Provenance: Private collection, 1945, Elkton, Maryland
By family descent, to the present.


Sadie attended the Mary Institute for Young Ladies

(affiliated with Washington University, Saint Louis),

and was in the Fifth Academic Class of 1880-81.

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 I found this photo of Sadie ~ although a poor-quality scan ~

(Photographer; L. Alman, New York City)

 (you can still make out her signature braid) that had been sold on eBay by a Belgian seller...

Can you imagine? 

What I would have given to have done this research a little sooner...

The photo sold for only a few dollars.

 The seller said in the listing that it had been included with "some wills" that he had

purchased, and that there were other photos that he had sold to an antique dealer,

 but this had been the only one with identification on the back; "Sadie P. Waters, 1888". 

(It looks as if she is holding a scroll; probably her diploma.)

He was hoping a family member might spy it...

I wrote to him, on the off-chance he might still have a scan ~

It had been long enough that the photo had been removed from the listing,

but a tiny image still showed up in Google Images.

A long shot, I know.


The photo of Sadie's artwork, below, and the accompanying text is from

Project Gutenberg's "Women in the Fine Arts From the Seventh

Century B.C. to the Twentieth Century A.D.", by Clara Erskine Clement, 1904.

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Sadie Waters
Her picture of the "Vierge aux Rosiers," reproduced here, was in the Salon, 1899, and in the exhibition of Religious Art in Brussels in 1900, after which it was exhibited in New York; and wherever seen it was especially admired.
Miss Waters' pictures were exhibited in the Salon Français, Champs Elysées, from 1891 until her death. From the earliest days of childhood she was remarkable for her skill in drawing and in working out, from her own impressions, pictures of events passing about her. If at the theatre she saw a play that appealed to her, she made a picture symbolic of the play, and constantly startled her friends by her original ideas and the pronounced artistic temperament, which was very early the one controlling power in her life. Mr. Carl Gutherz thus speaks of her good fortune in studying with M. Merson.
"As the Master and Student became more and more acquainted, and the great artist found in the student those kindred qualities which subsequently made her work so refined and beautiful,... he took the utmost care in developing her drawing—the fidelity of line and of expression, and the ever-pervading purity in her work. The sympathy with all good was reflected in the student, as it was ever present with the master, and only those who are acquainted with M. Merson can appreciate how fortunate it was for Art that the young artist was under a master of his character and temperament."
One of her pictures, called "La Chrysanthème," represents a nude figure of a young girl, seated on the ground, leaning against a large basket of chrysanthemums, from which she is plucking blossoms. The figure is beautiful, and shows the deep study the artist had made, although still so young.
The following estimate of her work is made by one competent to speak of such matters: "In this epoch of feverish uncertainty, of heated discussions and rivalries in art matters, the quiet, calm figure of Sadie Waters has a peculiar interest and charm generated by her tranquil and persistent pursuit of an ideal—an ideal she attained in her later works, an ideal of the highest mental order, mystical and human, and so far removed from the tendencies of our time that one might truthfully say, it stands alone. Her talents were manifold. She was endowed with the best of artistic qualities. She cultivated them diligently, and slowly acquired the handicraft and skill which enabled her to express herself without restriction. In her miniatures she learned to be careful, precise, and delicate; in her work from nature she was human; and in her studies of illuminating she gained a perfect understanding of ornamental painting and forms; and the subtle ambiance of the beautiful old churches and convents where she worked and pored over the ancient missals, and softly talked with the princely robed Monsignori, no doubt did much to develop her love for the Beautiful Story, the delicate myth of Christianity—and all this, all these rare qualities and honest efforts we find in her last picture, The Virgin.
"The beauty and preciseness of this composition, the divine feeling not without a touch of motherly sentiment, its delicacy so rare and so pure, the distinction of its coloring, are all past expression, and give it a place unique in the nineteenth century."—Paul W. Bartlett, Paris, 1903.

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Sadie (Sarah) P. Waters; September 26, 1867 ~ August 13, 1900

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Miss Sadie's monument is so unusual in this part of the world...

But I like to think of her, during her years in Paris

(where she resided at 49 Rue des Belles-Feuilles),

as a taphophile like me, wandering the beautiful Père-Lachaise cemetery.

Certainly the reclining bronzes there influenced her (or her family's, for her)

choice of memorials...

Such as the unfortunate Victor Noir, below ~

(killed in a duel by Pierre Bonaparte, great-nephew of Napoleon).

(Google him, he is "famous" beyond that...)

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Or the tomb of Felix Faure...

(Both photos from

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Artist's palette and laurel leaves at the head of Sadie's monument ~

(always difficult to get this shot due to the proximity of the large obelisk

that marks the Waters plot) ~ "Ars Longa ~ Vita Brevis"

"Art is long, life is short".

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Visitors leave coins in Sadie's hands and on her dress...

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That's all for now...

Much of Sadie's life is still a mystery.

I don't feel I have really done her justice

with this post, but I will keep searching!