What’s in a (middle) name?

In honor of Middle Name Pride Day, we took some time to explore artists in the DMA collection whose middle names were part of their identity and the stories behind them.

John Singleton Copley, Woodbury Langdon and Sarah Sherburne Langdon, 1767, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, The Eugene and Margaret McDermott Art Fund, Inc.

John Singleton Copley, Woodbury Langdon and Sarah Sherburne Langdon, 1767, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, The Eugene and Margaret McDermott Art Fund, Inc.

Following a long tradition that continues today, many artists’ middle names can be attributed to familial ties. John Singleton Copley’s middle name can be credited to his mother’s maiden name. She was from the County Clare, Ireland, but could trace her ancestors back to Lancashire, England. She was forced to take over her husband’s tobacco shop upon his death shortly after the family emigrated in the early 1700s.

John Wesley Jarvis, Portrait of a Man, c. 1815-1820, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, bequest of Mrs. Sheridan Thompson

John Wesley Jarvis, Portrait of a Man, c. 1815-1820, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, bequest of Mrs. Sheridan Thompson

John Wesley Jarvis was named for his uncle John Wesley, founder of the Methodist church. Jarvis was born in his uncle’s homeland of England, but his mariner father moved the family to Philadelphia in the artist’s early years. He eventually became one of the most renowned portrait painters in New York in the early 1800s but strayed from his namesake’s roots with his propensity for flamboyant fashion and alcohol.

Velma Davis Dozier, Rain Forest (pin), 1969, cast gold, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Otis and Velma Dozier

Velma Davis Dozier, Rain Forest (pin), 1969, cast gold, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Otis and Velma Dozier

Also following a tradition that continues today, several female artists in the DMA collection assumed their maiden name as their middle name after their marriages. Velma Davis was a Texas native who studies painting at SMU and then specialized in jewelry making and design while obtaining her master’s degree from Columbia University. She returned to Texas to cofound the Dallas School of Creative Arts in the 1930s, where she met her husband, painting teacher Otis Dozier.

Pompeo Girolamo Batoni, Portrait of a Man in a Blue Suit, 1760s, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Leon A. Harris, Jr.

Pompeo Girolamo Batoni, Portrait of a Man in a Blue Suit, 1760s, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Leon A. Harris, Jr.

Children in Italian families have long been named for saints for whom the parents have a special affinity, as was likely the case with Pompeo Girolamo (“Jerome”) Batoni. The artist clearly also held St. Jerome in high regard, having depicted him at least in three separate works: St. Jerome in the Wilderness, The Last Communion of St. Jerome, and in one of his most famous later paintings, The Marriage of St. Catherine with Sts. Jerome and Lucy. (It is worth noting that Catherine was the name of his first wife; Lucy, the name of his second.)

Henry Ossawa Tanner, Christ and His Mother Studying the Scriptures, c. 1909, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, Deaccession Funds

Henry Ossawa Tanner, Christ and His Mother Studying the Scriptures, c. 1909, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, Deaccession Funds

Henry Ossawa Tanner’s parents escaped a life of slavery via the Underground Railroad. Benjamin Tucker Tanner, who became an African Methodist Episcopal minister, and his wife Sarah, bestowed the middle name of “Ossawa” upon their son, after Osawatomie – the Kansas town where the infamous abolitionist John Brown launched his anti-slavery campaign.

Norman Bel Geddes and Walter Kidde Sales Co., "Soda King" syphon bottle, designed c. 1935, plastic and chrome, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of David T. Owsley

Norman Bel Geddes and Walter Kidde Sales Co., “Soda King” syphon bottle, designed c. 1935, plastic and chrome, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of David T. Owsley

American theatre and industrial designer Norman Melancton Geddes adopted the “Bel” middle name after marrying his wife, Helen Belle Schneider in 1916. The couple also passed on their incorporated name to their daughter, actress Barbara Bel Geddes.

Other artists who took pride in their middle name currently on view in the DMA galleries:
John White Alexander
Thomas Hart Benton
Abraham Hendricksz van Beyeren
Richard Parkes Bonington
Alfred Thompson Bricher
Edward Coley Burne-Jones
Frederic Edwin Church
Francis William Edmonds
Laurits Christian Eichner
Jean Alexandre Joseph Falguière
Francesco Salvator Fontebasso
Jesús Guerrero Galván
Charles Sumner Greene
Henry Mather Greene
Charles Webster Hawthorne
René Jules Lalique
John Hugh Le Sage
Pierre Nicolas Legrand
Guillaume Guillon Lethiere
Alfred Henry Maurer
Alfred Jacob Miller
John Nicholas Otar
Charles Willson Peale
Jean Baptiste Marie Pierre
Giulio Cesare Procaccini
William Tylee Ranney
John Gordon Rideout
Leon Polk Smith
Walter Dorwin Teague
Louis Comfort Tiffany
Jean François de Troy
Joseph Mallord William Turner
Karl Emmanuel Martin (Kem) Weber
Adolf Ulric Wertmüller

Reagan Lynette Duplisea is the associate registrar, exhibitions, at the DMA

1 Response to “What’s in a (middle) name?”


  1. 1 phyllis morton March 10, 2014 at 10:02 pm

    fun


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