Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The David Hudson Portrait

David Hudson portrait
The story of the David Hudson portrait by J. O. Osborne, painted in 1851, is one of unusual dimensions and locations. It was commissioned by Hudson’s daughter, Anner Maria Hudson Baldwin (1800-1892) for a place of honor in the old Board Room on the upper floor of the Athenaeum, where the college trustees met until the college moved to Cleveland in 1882. The portrait was probably not taken to Cleveland, as there is documentation that the trustees voted to return the portrait to David Hudson’s daughter and her daughter, Mrs. Edwin S. Gregory “in deference to their wishes."

How it was found for sale in a Florida antiques shop some 85 years later is something of a mystery.

In 1967, Mr & Mrs. Benton F. Murphy of Chagrin Falls found the portrait at an antiques shop in St.
Dr. Henry Flanagan and Mr. Benton Murphy
with the David Hudson portrait in 1991.
Augustine, Florida, and saw the back of the portrait was identified as David Hudson. The Murphys recognized the founder of Hudson, Ohio, and purchased the portrait, which remained in their home until 1991. They decided to present the portrait as a gift to Headmaster Henry “Skip” Flanagan of Western Reserve Academy. The Murphys had had the portrait restored and learned from the Bonfoey Gallery in Cleveland that it had been painted by noted portrait painter J. O. Osborne at “the request of the trustees of Western Reserve College for use of the cabinet.” Although the Murphys themselves had no previous connection with the school, they wanted the portrait to come home to the campus for which it had been created in 1851.

Archivist Tom Vince showing off the
David Hudson portrait's new home in the
John D. Ong Library.
The portrait shows David Hudson (1761-1836), presumably at the height of his career as Hudson’s founder, township trustee, Postmaster, real estate baron and founding trustee of the Western Reserve College. He is about the age of 60 and is shown standing next to a book-laden desk holding a document that suggests his civic importance. It is a far more sophisticated portrait than the one done by James Beard in 1829, the large matching portraits now owned by the Hudson Library and Historical Society. The smaller bust portrait, originally owned by Miss Virginia Lee, last Hudson descendant to live in the David Hudson House, was given to the school in 1967. That earlier portrait hangs in Ellsworth Hall. The Osborne portrait, given by the Murphy family in 1991, hung for many years in the hallway opposite the former Headmaster’s Office in Seymour Hall. It was later taken to the attic of Seymour where it languished until being rescued by Archivist Tom Vince in the spring of 2013 and hung on the lower level of the John D. Ong Library next to the large 1856 map of Hudson that this same archivist discovered several years ago, tucked under the eaves of the attic in the Knight Fine Arts Center. The large David Hudson portrait now has a place of honor sharing the wall with a historic map of the town he founded.