Museum Moment: Margaret Curtis Portrait

Mar 04, 2010

By Rhonda Glenn, USGA

Of the many portraits in the collection of the USGA Museum, the most striking is a formal and haunting image of Margaret Curtis of Boston and Manchester, Mass., three-time U.S. Women’s Amateur champion and co-founder of the Curtis Cup. Painted by Charles Hopkinson in 1910, the portrait is a realistic, somber work, depicting a larger-than-life figure in the women’s game.

In 1910, Curtis was 27 years old and many of her greatest years lay ahead. She had won the 1907 U.S. Women’s Amateur, trouncing her sister, Harriot Curtis, the defending champion, 7 and 6, in the final. She would win the Women’s Amateur twice more, in 1911 and 1912, before going to Europe as a Red Cross volunteer.

Margaret Curtis’ most enduring legacy arguably would be her role as a social activist. Through her work with the American Red Cross and other organizations, Curtis improved the lives of countless refugees in Europe in the aftermath of World War I. In this image by Hopkinson, her fierce inner strength, independence and determination shine through.

The relationship between Curtis and Hopkinson, who was born in Cambridge, Mass., in 1869, is intriguing. Margaret was one of five sisters in a family of 10 children. Only one sister, Elinor, married and it was to Hopkinson, one of the most distinguished landscape and portrait artists of his day.

Hopkinson’s grandson, Tom Halsted, a columnist for the Gloucester (Mass.) Daily Times, wrote on the occasion of a 2009 exhibit that his grandfather had shown an early interest in drawing, “…and after graduating in 1891 from Harvard College (where he did many illustrations for the humor magazine, the Lampoon), went off to study art, first in New York, then in Paris.”

Even in the depths of the Great Depression, Hopkinson earned a good living as a painter, Halsted wrote. His commissioned portraits earned international acclaim and Time magazine called him “the Dean of American Portrait Painters.”

“He painted as many or more portraits of family members and friends for free,” said Halsted.

Perhaps this portrait of his sister-in-law is one of those. In 1961, Margaret Curtis, who was a member of the USGA Museum Committee, donated the painting to the USGA Museum.

After an unselfish and bountiful life of service to others, Margaret Curtis died peacefully on Christmas Day in 1965 at the age of 82. Hopkinson had died some three years before. His grandson remembered watching him paint as he sat on the terrace of his home the summer before he passed away.

“He … in a few sure brush strokes created an overhanging pine bough, a splash of sunlight on blue water, and waves crashing on a jagged shore,” Halsted wrote. “He turned to me with a smile, and said, ‘I think I’m beginning to get it.’ ”

Hopkinson, that summer before he died, was 92 years old.

Rhonda Glenn is a manager of communications for the USGA. E-mail her with questions or comments at rglenn@usga.org.

This portrait of Margaret Curtis, painted in 1910 by Charles Hopkinson, resides in the USGA Museum in Far Hills, N.J.
(Copyright USGA Museum)