Portrait of Sadie P. Waters captures the nineteen-year-old daughter of William H. Waters, a successful St. Louis industrialist, clad in a pale lavender velvet dress with floral accents and posed cleverly against a complementary golden background to give her presence full effect. Millet’s exceptional talent reveals itself in his interpretation of how the light plays against the various textures and patterns of her gown and in his rendition of her delicate, warm skin tones, which are highlighted by the single red rose held in her hands. Sadie was an artist herself, and this portrait was painted just before she left for France to pursue her studies, where she worked under Luc Olivier-Merson and excelled at miniature painting. She eventually began exploring more religious imagery and was awarded an honorable mention at the Paris Exposition Universelle in 1900, but, sadly, passed away quite unexpectedly in the same year. Millet’s portrait shows her in the prime of her youth and was highlighted by critic Marianna Van Rensselaer in her review of the National Academy’s annual exhibition in 1889: “…a delicate and refined figure of a charming maiden in a lavender gown.”
This work retains its original frame.
 “Fine Arts: The Academy Exhibition,” The Independent, May 16, 1889, p. 8
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Francis Davis Millet graduated from Harvard University in 1869 and perfected his artistic craft while under the instruction of Henri Leys at the Royal Academy of Art in Antwerp. In 1875 Millet returned to Boston, and along with John LaFarge and William Morris Hunt, established the School of the Museum of Fine Arts. It was Millet who suggested Emil Otto Grundmann, his fellow pupil in Antwerp, to be the Director of the painting department. Millet too taught at the school briefly after it opened, before leaving again for Europe.
Millet was a member of the National Academy of Design and the Boston Art Club where he exhibited from 1878 until 1909. He also served as Trustee for the Metropolitan Museum of Art and was appointed Director of the American Academy in Rome. He was an expert in mural painting, and the New Bedford Free Public Library commissioned him to paint a mural depicting the fishing history of the town. The project was never completed. The sketches were lost when the Titanic sank in 1912 with Millet aboard.
Private collection, Elkton, Maryland, 1945
By descent within the family
Collection, New York, New York
(verso of canvas) Sadie P. Waters aetatis suae XX / F. D. Millet pinxt /New York April 1888
Adelson Galleries, New York, New York, with Artist, Title, Date, Medium, Size and Inventory Number
Mrs. Schuyler Van Rensselaer, “Fine Arts: The Academy Exhibition,” The Independent, May 16, 1889, p. 8
Sixty-Fourth Annual Exhibition, National Academy of Design, New York, 1889, no. 279, as Portrait of Miss W.