Diplomatic Reception Rooms, U.S. Department of State

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Web Property of the U.S. Department of State


Object Details

Hubert Vos (American, 1855-1935)
United States: Massachusetts: Boston
North American
oil on canvas
Overall: 51 in x 42 in; 129.54 cm x 106.68 cm
This portrait of Richard Olney, which was painted from life in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1897, was purchased by the Department of State from Mr. Olney on October 9, 1897.
Signed "Herbert Vos 97"
Credit Line
The Diplomatic Reception Rooms, U.S. Department of State, Washington, D.C.
The Diplomatic Reception Rooms, U.S. Department of State, Washington, D.C.
Accession Number


Richard Olney (1835–1917) was born in Oxford, Massachusetts. He graduated from Brown University and Harvard Law School, serving in the Massachusetts legislature before being appointed attorney general by President Grover Cleveland. Following the death of Walter Gresham, Olney was named secretary of state. 

Olney came to office at a tense time. The Cuban War of Independence against Spanish colonial rule was gaining strength. The U.S. government tried to halt shipments by Cuban sympathizers and exiles from Key West and other U.S. ports but also faced public pressure to intervene on behalf of the rebels. Tensions over Cuba would eventually ignite the Spanish-American War the year after Olney left office in 1897. Elsewhere in Latin America Olney played a significant role in arranging for an arbitrated settlement to the boundary dispute between Venezuela and the British colony of Guyana, thus enhancing the role of the United States as a power player in the Western Hemisphere. 

Olney left office at the end of Cleveland’s second administration and resumed his law practice. He continued to write about international relations.