Portrait of Madeline McDowell Breckinridge

Oil on canvas
48 1/4 x 37 inches

As published in: Central to Their Lives: Southern Women Artists in the Johnson Collection

As exhibited in:
The Governor's Mansion, 2010–2014, Frankfort, Kentucky

Central to Their Lives: Southern Women Artists in the Johnson Collection, 20182021, Georgia Museum of Art, Athens; Mississippi Museum of Art, Jackson; Huntington Museum of Art, West Virginia; Dixon Gallery and Gardens, Memphis, Tennessee; Gibbes Museum of Art, Charleston, South Carolina; Wofford College, Spartanburg, South Carolina; Taubman Museum of Art, Roanoke, Virginia

Descended from a distinguished line of Pennsylvania artists, Ella Hergesheimer found success in Nashville, Tennessee, painting portraits of notable citizens and the social elite. Lauded for her ability to convey her sitters’ true selves, Hergesheimer’s likeness of Madeline McDowell Breckinridge presents a mature woman of quiet authority—composed, assured, and at ease. Sitting askew in a chair with decorative gilded fluting and deep blue fabric—details evocative of an elegant throne—Breckinridge confidently meets the viewer’s gaze. Breckinridge was a prominent leader of the women’s suffrage movement and a tireless advocate for children’s welfare, both in her home state of Kentucky and on the national stage. Executed just months before Breckinridge’s death, this resolute depiction testifies to the courage and determination of all women fighting for equal rights in the early twentieth century.


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