Sweet Auburn: The Magazine of the Friends of Mount Auburn A Landscape of Lives - Page 8

Stories Behind the Stones :

Harriet Templeton Lee , Photographer ’ s Model ; Lot # 3277 , Rose Path

Patricia J . Fanning , PhD , Professor of Sociology , Bridgewater State University
Harriet Templeton Lee ( 1892-1900 ) is an unfamiliar name to most but Peggy , as Harriet was called , was a model for famed pictorial photographers and part of one iconic image , Blessed Art Thou among Women , by Gertrude Käsebier . Born in September , 1892 , in Boston , Peggy was the first child of Francis Watts Lee , a printer and photographer , and his wife Agnes Rand Lee , a poet . Both were devotees of the Arts and Crafts movement .
The girl was first photographed by F . Holland Day , who was a family friend and one of the leaders of American Pictorialism . Day ’ s most well-known portrait of Peggy ( figure 1 ), taken in 1898 , has her standing beside the artist ’ s hobnailed leather chair , his theatrical leopard skin draped across it . Peggy wears a spotless white dress with lacetrimmed collar and cuffs . As was his custom , Day placed significant accessories in the composition . In this instance , the portrait of an elderly bearded man sits on the console behind Peggy ’ s left shoulder . Possibly the depiction of some Biblical character , the rather disconcerting image lends a certain solemnity to the tableau , as does the copy of Louis- Maurice Boutet de Manuel ’ s Joan of Arc which Peggy holds . Opened to an illustration of the peasant Joan encountering a vision of her future self , it was likely placed there by Day to suggest a similarly inspirational path for Peggy . This is not the portrait of a girl engaged in frivolous child ’ s play .
Instead , she stands straight-backed , gravely challenging the camera , seemingly ready to meet whatever life brings .
For Käsebier ’ s famed Blessed Art Thou among Women ( figure 2 ) the camera appears to be surreptitiously recording a private moment . Of course the cumbersome equipment and intricate lighting requirements of the age made the unplanned creation of such a photograph impossible . According to Käsebier , however , she asked the two to hold a pose she had previously witnessed . Agnes , relaxed and comfortable as she turns her head away from the camera , braces one hand on the door frame while the other rests on her daughter ’ s shoulder . The child , meanwhile , is drawn to her full height , heels together , hands at her side , staring determinedly past the viewer .
It is a flawless composition in color , tone , and shape . The varying shades of white , Agnes ’ s billowing gown and Peggy ’ s brightly starched collar and cuffs , and the light tones of the background wall and painted door frame play off one another . In addition , the textures of the varied fabrics – the ethereal yet voluminous dress of the mother contrasted with the depth and solidity of the girl ’ s attire – and the rounded forms of the figures in counterpoint to the rectilinear doorway and the elongated cropping of the image itself result in an eloquent balance of pattern and shape . More significant , Käsebier has sympathetically
6 | Sweet Auburn