Diplomatic Reception Rooms, U.S. Department of State

United States of America flag

Web Property of the U.S. Department of State


Object Details

Ellen Emmet Rand (American, 1876-1941)
North American
oil on canvas
Overall: 42 3/4 in x 33 in; 108.585 cm x 83.82 cm
Henry Lewis Stimson, from 1933; to the Department of State; to the Fine Arts Committee. This portrait of Henry L. Stimson was painted from life in 1933 for Mr. Stimson, who had it sent to the Department of State in October 1933 on the understanding that it was to "be treated temporarily as a loan." It was received in the Department on October 25 and was hung in Secretary of State Cordell Hull's anteroom the following day. The loan developed eventually into a gift.
Signed "Ellen Emmet Rand 1933" upper left
Credit Line
Gift of The Honorable Henry Lewis Stimson
The Diplomatic Reception Rooms, U.S. Department of State, Washington, D.C.
Accession Number

Object Essay

Henry Stimson (1867–1950), Herbert Hoover’s Secretary of State and one of America’s more remarkable public servants, was once called a “New England conscience on legs,” and his moral conception of civic duty and the selflessness with which he pursued it often made him appear “stern, reserved, and forbidding.”1DAB, s.v. “Henry Lewis Stimson.” This essay, by the Stimson authority Elting E. Morison, is the source of all biographical citations herein. It is remarkable that only the description of “reserved” seems to apply here, considering that he had just completed his term as Secretary during one of the most dispiriting and ominous periods of modern history. The worldwide depression, the Japanese invasion of Manchuria, and the rise of Fascism made Stimson feel (as he wrote Ramsay MacDonald) that he was “looking at a great flood breaking through a dam and having nothing but a hand shovel with which to make repairs.”

Stimson’s tenure at the Department of State, however, was only a brief part of his public career, and it was bracketed by two notable terms as Secretary of War. The first (1911–1913) was in the Taft administration, just prior to World War I. He inherited an army that was still geared to fighting the Indian Wars, but when he left office, “the army had for the first time a general staff that was a source of competent military direction.” A firm believer in universal conscription, Stimson volunteered for active duty with the field artillery in France in 1917 at age fifty.

Stimson’s second service as Secretary of War (1940–1945) was even more remarkable. Outspoken in his support for the nations allied against Germany and Italy, he believed that neutrality was national self-delusion, that American involvement in the war was inevitable. His advocacy, though unpopular with many citizens, persuaded President Roosevelt to appoint the seventy-two-year-old Republican to head the War Department once again, which Stimson did throughout the war. His was a decisive voice. As his biographer, Elting E. Morison, has remarked, for Henry Stimson public service was not “an opportunity to make interesting speeches. For him it was a matter of what one did. . . . So for forty years he did things.”

The painter Ellen Emmet Rand has been largely forgotten today, but, in 1930, while Henry Stimson endured his frustrations as Secretary of State, she earned $74,000 as a portrait painter.2Cummings 1984, 3. The catalogue essay is an account of her student years. Another recent exhibition and examination of her art is Hoppin. During her lifetime, her critical notices were consistently good; a valuable, if not reliable, illustrated essay is Curran, 471–79. She was a remarkably talented artist in a remarkable family. Her great-great-grandfather, Thomas Emmet, was the brother of the Irish patriot Robert Emmet. In exile to America in 1804, Thomas became Attorney General of New York State within eight years of his emigration.

Rand’s sister, Leslie, and three female cousins were also painters. Another cousin, Henry James, liked to call them “the Emmetry.” As a child, Rand studied drawing with Dennis Bunker, and then continued her training with Robert Reid and Kenyon Cox at the Art Students’ League. Her European study was mostly with the American sculptor and painter Frederick MacMonnies, but she spent much time in London visiting the Jameses and fulfilling portrait commissions.

It was often observed that Rand was a skillful painter in blacks and whites but used stronger color sparingly. “Color is meaningless if it is not in the right place,” she said, and in the Stimson portrait the reds effectively introduced into the brightly lighted side of the sitter’s face illustrate her point.3Quoted by Curran, 473. Above all, her contemporaries admired in her work “a certain distinction,” attributing it to both her own character and that of her frequently eminent sitters. “Coming into a gallery hung with her work, one has the feeling of entering a distinguished company.”4Ibid., 478. Among the “distinguished company” who sat to Rand were Henry and William James, Augustus Saint-Gaudens, William Sloane Coffin, Elihu Root, and, in the same year as Stimson, Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

That her mature work also appealed to some bright young critics of the day is evident in a 1929 review of her exhibition at Durand-Ruel’s by Lloyd Goodrich. With the caveat that she lacked “intensity and a fully developed sense of form” when compared to Thomas Eakins, he praised her portraits “for a quality not too common in this branch of the painting profession—the desire, not to flatter the sitter, but to tell the truth about him. . . . It is a relief to find an artist who is more interested in character than in anything else.”5Lloyd Goodrich, “Gallery Reviews,” New York Times, March 24, 1929, sect. 10: 13.1. Conservative in the best sense, the portrait of Henry L. Stimson is careful and complete. The painter’s approach suits the man: upright and forthright, intelligent and controlled.

William Kloss

Excerpted from Clement E. Conger, et al. Treasures of State: Fine and Decorative Arts in the Diplomatic Reception Rooms of the U.S. Department of State. New York: H.N. Abrams, 1991.


Henry Lewis Stimson (1867–1950) was born in New York. He graduated from Yale College and then Harvard Law School. As a lawyer, he rose to prominence in the law firm of Elihu Root, who had been secretary of state during the administration of Theodore Roosevelt. Stimson was secretary of war during the William Howard Taft administration and then served in the U.S. army during World War I. Between 1918 and 1926 he was an occasional envoy to Latin America, mediating disputes. In 1927 President Calvin Coolidge appointed Stimson governor general of the Philippines, a post he held until 1929, when President Herbert Hoover named him secretary of state.

As secretary, Stimson continued the effort to reduce armaments in international conferences in London and Geneva, but Japan eventually withdrew from the agreements made at the London Naval Conference in 1930. He protested Japan’s occupation of Manchuria in 1931, articulating what became known as the Stimson Doctrine—that the United States would not recognize states created by aggression. He also attempted, unsuccessfully, to limit the economic effects of war debts. Throughout his tenure he tried to preserve the Kellogg-Briand Pact, but by 1933 he observed that “the situation in the world seemed to me like the unfolding of a great Greek tragedy, where we could see the march of events and know what ought to be done, but seemed to be powerless to prevent its marching to its grim conclusion.”

Stimson retired but was recalled to government service by President Franklin Roosevelt, who appointed him secretary of war in 1940. He served until 1945, overseeing the expansion and supplying of the U.S. military during World War II. He directed the atomic bomb project after 1943 and advised President Harry S Truman on the bombings of Japan.