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Ellen Emmet Rand

Photo of Ellen Emmet Rand in hat and painter's smock, palette and brushes in hand. She stands before a painting in progress of a you
Ellen Emmet Rand in her studio, Peter A. Juley & Son Collection, Smithsonian American Art Museum J0038382.
Also known as
Ellen G. Emmet Rand
Date of birth
Date of death

A prolific painter, Ellen Emmet Rand specialized in portraits and portrayed a wide array of individuals—including statesmen, artists, writers, singers, industrial titans, leading intellectuals, and society women. Rand masterfully navigated the complexities of a painting career, achieving recognition and financial security at a time when women in the field faced enormous challenges. 

Rand studied at the Cowles Art School in Boston and the Art Students League in New York City. She earned her first professional experience as an illustrator for such magazines as Vogue and Harper’s Weekly. In 1896 she moved to England, where she had the opportunity to meet the renowned portraitist John Singer Sargent. The following year Rand relocated to Paris, studying for several years with sculptor and painter Frederick William MacMonnies

In 1900 she established a studio in New York and worked both there and in Salisbury, Connecticut, quickly making a name for herself as a portraitist. In 1902 she had her first one-woman exhibition at Durand-Ruel Gallery in New York. Four years later she broke another barrier for female painters, becoming the first woman to have a solo exhibition at Copley Hall in Boston (where painters like Claude Monet, James McNeill Whistler, and Sargent had shown). 

In Woman before the Mirror (1925), Rand demonstrates an interest in elements both old and new. While the figure’s 19th-century dress and the influence of Spanish baroque artist Diego Velázquez look to the past, the subject’s reflected gaze suggests an assertive self-presentation that is decidedly modern.  

Rand supported her family with her art from her student years onward, receiving considerable acclaim in her day as a professional. Even though she was one of the highest-paid female artists of her time, her reputation and influence all but disappeared after her death.

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