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Exhibit Catalog to the Morris County Historical Society's "Out of the Closet" Exhibition

Gertrude Colles Miniatures

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Gertrude Colles: Miniaturist

 

Gertrude Colles was born in Morristown.  She was a resident of Morristown for most of her youth.  Her grandfather was James Colles, a commission merchant who owned a farm around Colles Avenue.  Colles was also the great niece of Christopher Colles , who designed the old Erie Canal of New York State and the great niece of Abraham Colles, who was coined the “Father of Surgery” and the “Colles fracture” was named after him.

Colles studied painting at the Art Students League in New York City and at the Julian Delecluse and Cabrossie schools in Paris.  She had her own portrait studio in New York City from 1894 – 1921.  This was an unusual achievement for a woman at this time.  Gertrude Colles was well known for her miniature portrait paintings.  She painted from regular sittings, descriptions, and from photographs.  Colles also created life size oil portraits such as the bust of Mrs. Fredrick van Buren.

The daughter of Julia Keese Nelson Colles, a respected author, who wrote “Historic Morristown” and “Authors and Writers Connected with Morristown” and a woman who adamantly believed women should have the right to vote, Gertrude Colles became actively involved in the suffrage movement in the early 1900s.  “The polite way in which men listened to her opinions and then brushed her off” also motivated her affiliation with the movement.

 

Colles joined a group of suffragists called the American Suffragettes, who spoke at various locations around New York City, distributed literature, and sold yellow buttons with the words “Votes for Women.”  The group’s primary speaker was Mary Coleman, a criminal courts lawyer.  The appearance of a woman speaking on a platform in public was a controversial act.  Colles recalled the cheers and boos the open air meetings inspired, “on one occasion we were followed by a howling mob while a secret service man, swinging a blackjack, led us to safety.”

 

Gertrude Colles voted every year after suffrage was granted in 1920 except the time she was in the hospital.  Colles died at the age of 88 on September 24, 1957 at St. Clare’s Hospital after a long illness.

 


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Gertrude Colles

Miniature Portrait of Artist's Mother, Julia Nelson Colles

Oil on ivory

H 4 inches x W 2 inches x D

 

The portrait of the artist’s mother, Julia Nelson Colles and was painted after Julia’s death.  There is an engraving on the back on the miniature that says, "Julia Nelson Colles. B August 3rd 1876 and D May 24th 1903."  The miniature is set in a gold frame and signed on the lower right side.  It has its original leather-bound velvet-lined case from Black, Starr, & Frost, Fifth Avenue, NY.
 
 
 
 


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Gertrude Colles

Miniature Portrait of P. E. Mower

Circa 1902

Oil on ivory

H 4 inches x W 2 inches x D

 

This miniature portrait is engraved with P. E. Mower, 1902, on its back. It is set in a gold oval frame. It is displayed in a leather-bound velvet-lined case from Black, Starr, & Frost, Fifth Avenue, NY.
 
 
 
 


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Gertrude Colles

Miniature Portrait of Anna Josephine Mower

Oil on ivory

H 4 inches x W 2 inches x D 1/8 inches

 

This is the oil portrait of Anna Josephine Mower on ivory. Anna Josephine Mower is wearing a lace veil, which indicates that she is probably in mourning.  The miniature is engraved on the back with "Anna Josephine Mower" and is set in a gold frame. It has its original leather-bound velvet-lined case from Black, Starr, & Frost, Fifth Avenue, NY.

 

 

 

 


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Gertrude Colles

Watercolor Miniature of a Young Woman

Water color on paper

H 3 inches x W 2 inches x D inches

 

Found in Collection.

 

This water color miniature, which is in its original oval black frame with gold trim, was painted on paper and is signed by the artist in the lower right side.
 
 
 


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Gertrude Colles

Miniature Portrait of Ruby Kunz

Oil on ivory

H 4 1 /2 inches x W 3 inches x D 3/8 inches

 

Found in Collection.

 

This oil miniature portrait on ivory is of the same woman as in a lithograph. On the lower right side of the portrait Gertrude Colles painted her signature.
 
 
 
 


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Gertrude Colles

Miniature Portrait of a Nurse

Oil on ivory

H 3 inches x W 2 inches x D 3/8 inches

 

This is a vivid oil portrait of a nurse on ivory.  Colles shows intricate detail in the lace and shadows of the drapery. The portrait is set in a painted gold rectangular frame.
 
 
 
 


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Gertrude Colles
Lithograph of Ruby Kunz

Lithograph

H 13 inches x W 10 inches x D 1/8 inches

 

The lithograph is a portrait of Ruby Kunz, the same young woman as shown in the oil miniature above.  It probably was a study for the oil miniature.