The Man Behind the Portrait


Larz Anderson’s “Field Marshall” Portrait, by DeWitt Lockman (1914).
Anderson House, Washington, DC

When we think of Larz Anderson, our mental image of him is one that has in large measure been defined by the portraiture in oils, photographs, and sculpture that he commissioned during his lifetime. In these artistic works, he memorialized his sense of himself and his place in the world through formal attire, military and civilian medals, fanciful uniforms, posture, symbology – and a countenance that was always serious and unexpressive.

There was another side to Larz, however, that was playful, full of fun, and perhaps even a bit rambunctious. During his undergraduate years at Harvard, his father often admonished him for his distractions that included dining out in Boston restaurants, going to parties, and taking impromptu trips to New York for the weekend. This is the Larz anyone would have enjoyed being around and getting to know. He seems to have been a life-of-the-party kind of guy!

An Anderson photo album dated 1905 provides counterbalance to the decorum Larz expressed in his formal portraiture. Images like the ones below help us understand him as a multi-dimensional man who indeed knew how to enjoy life. He looks more comfortable in these pictures wearing an old sweater and a straw hat than he does in his stuffy white tie and tails! we see Larz and Isabel with a guide on their 1905 fishing trip along the Allagash River in Maine.  Larz is perhaps teasing the guide about something he is

Over a picnic lunch, Larz reaches out to another guide in the same way, saying something about the man’s clothes that seems to amuse Isabel.

The Andersons’ biography, Larz and Isabel Anderson: Wealth and Celebrity in the Gilded Age by Stephen T. Moskey presents a completely new understanding of Larz Anderson’s complex, multidimensional personality. The book also includes many previously-unpublished images of the Andersons that help readers visualize the people behind the portraits.


Fishing on the Allagash River (1905)
Courtesy of the Larz Anderson Auto Museum
Scanned and edited by Skip Moskey.
All rights reserved
(Digimarc® Guardian for Images)