Albert Herter

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Albert Herter
Albert Herter standing.jpg
Albert Herter
Born 1871 (1871)
New York, New York
Died 1950 (1951)
Nationality American
Known for Painting

Albert Herter (1871–1950) was an artist and painter. He was born in New York City, studied in Paris and then in New York's Art Students League. He had come from an artistic family; before Albert was born, his father, Christian Herter, and his father's half-brother Gustave formed Herter Brothers, a prominent New York interior design and furnishings firm.

Albert Herter's paintings include Young Girl, Garden of the Hesperides, and Still Life with Flowering Dogwood and Japanese Figurines; he was commissioned to execute many portrait paintings and he created a number of civic and private murals. He married fellow artist Adele McGinnis. Their son Christian Herter became a politician, serving as governor of Massachusetts and later as Secretary of State under Dwight D. Eisenhower.

The Creeks[edit]

Herter was the original owner of "The Creeks", the extravagant 60-acre (240,000 m2) estate crowned with a Mediterranean style villa designed by Grosvenor Atterbury and built in 1899 on Georgica Pond, East Hampton. The villa contained "his and hers" artist studios so that Albert and Adele would each have their own space within which to work.

Adele Herter died at "The Creeks" in 1946;[1] the estate was sold to Alfonso A. Ossorio in 1951 by Christian Herter after his father Albert's death in 1950. Ossorio used the house as a gallery to display art collections and worked for 20 years in the gardens landscaping with exotic conifer species in groves dotted with his brightly colored found art sculptures. He donated 4 acres (16,000 m2) of "The Creeks" to the Nature Conservancy in 1975. After Ossorio's death in 1990, the property was offered for sale by his partner, dancer Ted Dragon, at the asking price of US$25M. It is now owned by Ronald Perelman.

Career growth[edit]

In 1898 Herter illustrated Thomas Wentworth Higginson's Tales of the Enchanted Islands of the Atlantic with six full-page plates.

Frontispiece--Tales of the Enchanted Islands of the Atlantic 1899
Pryderi and Rhiannon from Tales of the Enchanted Islands of the Atlantic
Merlin and Vivian from Tales of the Enchanted Islands of the Atlantic
King Arthur from Tales of the Enchanted Islands of the Atlantic
Maiden of the brazen door from Tales of the Enchanted Islands of the Atlantic
Demon hand from Tales of the Enchanted Islands of the Atlantic

In 1909, Herter was paid US$10,000 by Board of Regents of the Colorado Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution to paint for the Denver Auditorium what was said to be the world's largest theater backdrop. The flat curtain was 35 feet (11 m) high and 60 feet (18 m) wide; the illustration was an allegory of Independence including historical figures of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin.

That same year, Herter incorporated Herter Looms in New York, a tapestry design and manufacturing firm that was, in a sense, successor to Herter Brothers which had closed its doors in 1906.

In 1906 he was elected into the National Academy of Design as an Associate member and became a full Academician in 1943.

El Mirasol[edit]

Adele and Albert Herter spent a good deal of their time in California at "El Mirasol", the grand family estate bought in 1904 in Santa Barbara where his mother Mary Miles Herter had entertained friends such as Robert Louis Stevenson's widow Fanny Vandegrift (who later retired to and died at "El Mirasol" in 1914.)[1] The 4.6-acre (19,000 m2) parcel comprising an entire city block contained a prominent mansion surrounded by gardens. Adele and Albert undertook two major decoration efforts at the estate: the first at the mansion's initial outfitting in 1909 which incorporated earlier Herter Brothers furnishings, new Tiffany lamps designed by Albert Herter, original wall hangings and works of art by both Albert and Adele as well as by other California artists.[1] Following the death of Albert's mother in 1913, the estate received a new round of renovation in 1914 with its conversion into "El Mirasol Hotel"; Herter expanded the mansion and added 15 luxurious bungalows around the gardens.[2] The hotel was famed not only for its balanced design and private tranquility but for its wealthy guests including the Vanderbilts, the Rockefellers, the Guggenheims, and the heirs of Charles Crocker, J. P. Morgan and Philip Danforth Armour.[2] In 1920, Herter sold the property to Frederick C. Clift, the hotelier and attorney from the Sierras. After the 1920s, times were hard on the hotel. Under different owners it settled into primarily a retirement home for the wealthy elderly. Herter himself died at "El Mirasol" in 1950.[2]

Two attic fires damaged the west wing of the mansion in 1966. Rather than repairing it, two consecutive owners tried in vain to build high-rise shopping on the lot; the buildings and gardens were bulldozed and cleared but neighbors and a citizen's committee fought successfully against city approval of high-rise plans. The block sat empty for a few years while the Santa Barbara Museum of Art considered building a main gallery there. In December 1975 the parcel was quietly bought by Santa Barbara resident Alice Keck Park who immediately donated it to the city of Santa Barbara to become an urban park in perpetuity: Alice Keck Park Memorial Gardens.[2]

The Gift of Eternal Life[edit]

While living in Santa Barbara he wrote and produced a play called The Gift of Eternal Life, An Indo-Persian Legend, performed at the Lobero Theatre during March 20–23, 1929. He played the part of the King in the production, and designed the sets and costumes. The play was produced through the Drama Branch of the Community Arts Music Association of Santa Barbara. In the playbill Herter acknowledged the writings of Lily Adams Beck for inspiring the Orientalist theme and "much of its imagery", and he said that he also used several lines written by Rabindranath Tagore and Ananda Coomaraswamy. The cast was made up primarily of locals.


  • The Pageant of Nations (1913) - seven murals adorning The Mural Room at the St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco. Included a portrait of Gertrude Atherton posing as "California". The Mural Room was torn down and remade as a larger lobby and front desk area during hotel expansion in 1971. The Herter murals were taken down and placed in storage.
  • An Allegory of Education and Fundamental Orders 1638-1639 in the Connecticut Supreme Court at Hartford (1913) painted on canvas at Herter's studio at "The Creeks" on Long Island, New York, taken to Hartford and affixed to wall and ceiling with white lead.
  • Four murals at the Wisconsin State Capitol at Madison (1915)
Le Départ des poilus, août 1914 at Gare de l'Est in Paris, France


  1. ^ a b c The House of Herter Art: Albert and Adele Herter
  2. ^ a b c d Montecito Journal. Hattie Beresford, The Way It Was: Full Circle: The Story of El Mirasol, January 11, 2007.
  3. ^ National Academy of Sciences/ Herter's Lincoln Mural.
  4. ^ Herter murals at L.A. Public Library
  5. ^ L.A. Murals. Albert Herter, Eight Events at L.A. Public Library.
  6. ^ University of Southern California. California History Murals at L.A. Public Library.
  7. ^ Shiny Shots: Palm Beach. Photo of Herter portico mural

External links[edit]