DescriptionLOUIS EYTH (b. 1838)
Pearl (Pearl Lawther age 3 1/2 years), 1870s
Oil on linen
22in. x 27in.
Signed lower right
Louis Eyth immigrated from Prussia to Galveston around 1852. After the Civil War he worked with Blessing and Company, well known daguerreotypists and artists known for their photographs finished in oil, pastel, or watercolor. He was among the first wave of professional artists that was to immigrate to Texas. Besides oil enhanced photographs, Eyth accepted portrait commissions. In 1873, he was employed by the state to copy a famous portrait of Steve F. Austin. Eyth's copy, as well as the original, both survive in the Texas State Capital Collection. The commission brought him to the attention of historian James DeShields, who became his patron. Eyth illustrated many of DeShields books on the history of Texas. Only two or three of Eyth's oil paintings are known to exist, making this painting a very rare find.
This painting done in the 1870s, is of Pearl Lawther, daughter of Colonel Robert R. Lawther. The Lawther family were early pioneer settlers of Muscatine, Iowa, where they had organized a mercantile business. Lawther was loyal to the Confederate Sates and proved to be a gallant and honored officer. His brilliant charge in the Battle of Pea Ridge resulted in the capture of a union battery.
After the end of the war, Colonel Lawther moved to Galveston where he set up a retail grocery business. It was in Galveston where Colonel Lawther engaged Louis Eyth to paint a portrait of Pearl. Family records are not clear, but Pearl died as a young child and this painting was commissioned from an earlier daguerreotype taken by J. P. Phelps of Muscatine, Iowa, when she was three and half years old (inscribed copy included with the painting).
The resulting painting is a striking resemblance to the photograph. As is common with many portrait artists working with pioneer photographers, there is a great attention to details of the face, while other parts of the composition have a looser structure. Eyth made only one small compositional change from the photograph. Instead of the collared dress Pearl is wearing, he substitutes a lace dress with an open neckline. He adorns the young child with a pearl necklace. The effect is both intimate and charming, a young Texas girl on a red velvet sofa, sitting cross legged, wearing a pair of cowboy boots, lace dress, and a pearl necklace.
The painting was passed down to Joe E. Lawther who was the brother of Pearl and the Mayor of Dallas from 1917-1919. Lawther Drive in Dallas is named in honor of the family.
Acquired by descent from the artist by the present owner
Estimate: $24,000 - $30,000.
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