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As 2 new Dallin paintings unveiled, an explanation

Dallin Self-Portrait
'Dallin's Self-Portrait'

Experience the unveiling of not one ― but two ― recently acquired and restored Cyrus Dallin paintings.

At 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 16, Dallin Museum Director/Curator Heather Leavell is the host for a Zoom presentation of “Mrs. Hall’s Letter” and Dallin’s “Self-Portrait,” the only two-dimensional likeness by the artist known to exist.

Register at the Dallin website, under Programs & Events, click the event’s registration link >> 

The event is free, but donations are welcome.

Painting #1: “Mrs. Hall’s Letter”

Learn the fascinating history behind a rare 1884 oil portrait of Susan Frothingham Hall painted by the 22-year-old artist, in whose Charlestown, Mass., home Dallin lived during a crucial period in his early career.

The identity of the woman in this painting had been unknown until archival research revealed her to be Susan Frothingham Hall. Her likeness in the painting closely resembles a photo of Mrs. Hall from a Dallin family album in the museum’s collection. The photo is signed, “With love and good wishes from Mrs. G. V. Hall 1884.”

The Halls became an integral part of Dallin’s life during his early years in Boston. When Dallin left Truman Bartlett’s studio because of their contentious relationship, he was unable to afford other living arrangements. His good friend, painter Frederick Bound Hall, invited him to stay at the home of his parents, Gustavus and Susan, who lived at 57 High St., Charlestown. During the several years he stayed in the Hall home, Dallin produced a number of portraits of family members. One such portrait, a small plaster of Mr. and Mrs. Hall’s 5-year-old granddaughter, received critical praise at the1882 Massachusetts Institute Fair exhibit.

In a letter to his parents dated Jan. 21, 1883, Dallin mentioned a portrait he was painting of Mrs. Hall. Several weeks later he wrote that he had “... finished the portrait of Mrs. Hall which is 12 in. by 20 in.” In 1885, Dallin again wrote his parents that this portrait was his birthday gift to Mrs. Hall, and described the full-length figure as “the best thing I have done in the way of painting.”

Donated by Andrew, Irene Jay 

“Mrs. Hall’s Letter” was purchased with the generous financial support of Andrew and Irene Jay of Charlestown. Andrew, a member of the Cyrus Dallin Art Museum nonprofit board, spotted the painting on an online auction.

“Having had the pleasure of living in Arlington for several years, we enjoyed the richness of the community, and see the Dallin Museum as an important aspect of the community’s fabric. Although best known for his sculpture, Dallin was an accomplished painter as well. We were particularly impressed with the scholarship within the Dallin team as they quickly pinned down many details about the painting. Irene and I are delighted to support the museum in growing its collection,” said Andrew.

Painting #2 "Dallin’s Self-Portrait”

Dallin’s great grandniece, Daisy Dallin Southworth, will talk about the1915 self-portrait and why the family donated it. A 20- by 26-inch oil painting depicts Dallin in middle age, wearing a tan suit and sporting dark hair graying at his temples and a silver goatee. He appears introspective and perhaps slightly weary. 

“This painting was quite a surprise to us,” says museum co-founder Geri Trembly. 

The Dallin Museum thanks the Arlington Cultural Council, a local body supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, and the Dallin family for their generous donations. 

Restoration process

The painting, however, is more than 70 years old, and had suffered a lot. The side nails, used to attach the canvas to the frame, were rusted. There was also cupping on the paint and many bare spots.

The painting has since been restored. Peter Williams Museum conservator services of Boston meticulously cleaned, relined with new backing, and in-painted to correct any areas of loss. Stanhope Framers of Boston provided the period-appropriate, museum-quality framing. 

“This was our most expensive painting for restoration because it’s one of our largest and also the stress it endured,” said Trembly.

Dallin Museum

The Dallin Museum, 611 Mass. Ave., is open to the public on Saturdays and Sundays, noon to 4 p.m. Parking is available in the lot behind the building, accessible via Mystic Street.

To arrange a scheduled tour for groups of 10 or fewer, contact Nancy Blanton, nblanton at or 781-641-0747.

The museum continues to gratefully welcome contributions to help offset the cost of its art-related projects. Make donations online at or send a check, payable to the Cyrus Dallin Art Museum, at Dallin Museum, 611 Mass. Ave., Arlington, MA 02474. For more information, contact Leavell, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 781-641-0747.

 Sept. 28, 2021: Dallin Museum celebrates town's first Indigenous People’s Day

This news announcement was published Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2021. 

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