The Governor, The Copley, and Miss Ima

As told by Robert C. Vose, Jr. (1911-1998)

In 1954 I had secured permission from former Massachusetts Governor Alvan T. Fuller for a Dutch dealer friend and me to see the impressionist paintings in the Fuller House in Little Boar’s Head, New Hampshire. We drove up on a Sunday and the caretaker laboriously showed us every bathroom and closet in the house. On the top floor there was a large closet in which summer clothes were hung in paper bags. Between them I saw a beautiful 18th century American frame and asked to see what was in it. Out came this great Copley! The next day I called Governor Fuller and asked if he might sell it as it wasn’t hung. He kept me on the edge of my chair for months before agreeing to the sale.

Miss Ima Hogg (1872-1975), circa 1900

When I arrived on a summer Sunday around 3:00 p.m., the family was still at the dinner table but said to go ahead. As I came down the stairs, the Governor turned around and said, "Let me see it." Then, "Never saw it before."

With my prize I had hoped to attract a potential client, Miss Ima Hogg from Houston, and when I called her office, fate was with me. Miss Hogg happened to be visiting nearby at the Red Lion Inn in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, and agreed to see the painting. I greeted her with, "How do you do, Miss Hoag," mispronouncing her name, and she replied, “My name is Hogg." But she bought the Copley on the spot, the first colonial portrait of her collection.

The sale of the Copley started a long relationship with Miss Ima, as she became a major collector of paintings and furnishings for Bayou Bend, the house she bequeathed to the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. She was a very interesting and kindly person, but she liked service- none of this shipping a painting down for her to hang. I had to transport and hang the paintings myself. But whenever I went down there, in my hotel room she’d have tickets to the symphony or theater. Or she would put on a dinner party for me and introduce me to museum directors and collectors.

The last time I saw her, she took me and my young sons to lunch at the country club and said, "I took your advice in the beginning and have been taking it ever since." She was one of the great ladies of Houston and left an astounding personal collection.

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