By Thomas Waterman Wood
Billings sat for this three-quarter-length portrait in 1885, on the occasion of a full-length portrait commission for the University of Vermont. That full-length portrait still greets visitors at the entrance to the Billings Library, now the Billings Student Center which he donated to his alma mater. In his diary for May 1885, Billings identified this “bust portrait” as being “for Julia”, and it was soon hung in the Mansion in Woodstock, where it has remained.
Portraitist Wood was a fellow Vermonter who had made a successful career as a painter of rural genre scenes, in the manner of William Sidney Mount. Wood was born in Montpelier, Vermont, and spent summers painting there for most of his life. Frederick Billings purchased one of Wood’s oil studies for a rural genre scene called “Uncle Ned and I”, which survives in the Mansion collection. Wood maintained a studio in New York City, and rose to become the president of the National Academy, a position he held for many years.
Oil, canvas. 75x62 cm
Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park, MABI 2524