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Havemeyer, Louisine Waldron

American, 1855 - 1929

Elder, Louisine Waldron; Havemeyer, Henry Osborne Mrs.


Louisine Waldron Elder was born in New York City, the daughter of George W. Elder [1831-1873], a wealthy sugar refiner, and Mathilda Adelaide Waldron Elder [1834-1907]. In 1873, while attending the fashionable Paris boarding school of Mme. Marie Del Sarte, she met the American painter Mary Cassatt, who helped to introduce her to the avant-garde schools of Impressionism and Post-Impressionism. Soon afterward, Louisine became the first American patron of Degas. Louisine married Henry Osborne Havemeyer [1847-1907] on 22 August 1883. Henry, later head of the American Sugar Refining Co., was divorced from Lousine's aunt, Mary Louise Elder [1847-1897]. Louisine and Henry Osborne had three children: Horace [1886-1956], Adaline [later Mrs. Peter H.B. Frelinghuysen, 1884-1963], and Electra [later Mrs. James Watson Webb, 1888-1960]. In 1899 the Havemeyers built a mansion on Fifth Avenue, with an interior designed by Louis C. Tiffany studios, where Mrs. Havemeyer entertained a diversified group of celebrities. The Havemeyers soon became dedicated and discerning art collectors. Mrs. Havemeyer herself made more than 30 transatlantic buying trips. In 1901 the couple took a long trip through Italy and Spain during which they made some of their greatest purchases of artwork. They collected almost anything which appealed to them, including tea jars, china, glass, sculpture, and textiles. Louisine favored modern French painting, as did her friend and advisor, Mary Cassatt. The couple bought directly from European sources and with great subjectivity. After her husband's death in 1907, Mrs. Havemeyer became very interested in the woman suffrage movement. She helped Alice Paul to found, in 1913, the Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage, later the National Woman's Party. Her most notorious act took place in 1919 when, at the request of Woman's party leaders, she attempted to set fire to an effigy of President Wilson on the White House lawn. Mrs. Havemeyer died in 1929. Her will had far reaching influence in the art world, as she left 142 art objects directly to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and made provisions for more to be added.


Havemeyer, Louisine W. Sixteen to Sixty: Memoirs of a Collector. New York, 1961.
Sutton, Denys. "The Discerning Eye of Louisine Havemeyer." Apollo 82 (September 1965): 231-235.
James, Edward T., ed. Notable American Women 1607-1950: A Biographical Dictionary. 3 vols. Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1971: 2:156-157.
Weitzenhoffer, Frances. The Havemeyers: Impressionism Comes to America. New York, 1986.
Distel, Anne. Les collectionneurs des impressionists: Amateurs et marchands. Paris, 1989:237-242

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