Henry Osborne Havemeyer (1847-1907) inherited a
thriving sugar refinery business in New York City from his father.
Henry grew up accustomed to a wealthy lifestyle as his father
began the sugar refining business in 1807 (The Creation of the Havemeyer Collection.) When he inherited the
business, Henry continued his lush lifestyle and began collecting
artwork in 1876.
first purchase was made in Philadelphia where he bought carved
ivory figures, Japanese lacquered boxes, silk, brocades, and sword
guards as documented in
The Proud Possessors.
His purchases were impulsive and numerous. Despite friends' and
on Harry's collection choices, he
continued to build a collection of Japanese pottery, boxes,
screens, and paintings.
Henry attended New York City auctions and won the bids on the most
prized pieces. Henry's impulsive tendencies came from his belief
that his art purchases would all appreciate in value. Business man Henry Havemeyer met important people in the art world,
all printed in the text
The Proud Possessors, including Paul
Durand-Ruel. Durand-Ruel was a native Parisian professional art
dealer who owned galleries in Europe and the U.S. This
relationship allowed Harry to build his collection with access to
the most internationally demanded artists and pieces, giving Harry fame beyond his
Havemeyers: Impressionism Comes to America
Henry Havemeyer divorced his first wife Mary Louise Elder and
married her niece Louisine Elder Havemeyer in
1883, a fact from The
Havemeyers: Impressionism Comes to America. Both had developed distinct tastes for art collecting that
did not converge but rather complemented each other.
Louisine focused on
collecting modern works of the time composed by European
painters. She was most influenced by her close friend (Sixteen to Sixty: Memoirs of a collector), collecting
advisor, and artist
Mary Cassatt. Henry
acquired his first European paintings in 1888, two Rembrandt
Havemeyers: Impressionism Comes to America) one of which sits in the
living room of the E.H.W. Memorial building.
Henry's fortune allowed the couple to build several
properties, providing more space to house the growing collection.
The Havemeyers began their family in 1884 (The Proud Possessors) with the birth of
daughter Adaline. Two years later son Horace was born in 1886 and
Electra Havemeyer Webb
was born in 1888.
As the Havemeyer children grew up, they traveled with
their parents all over the world on vacations and art purchasing
By Electra Havemeyer...) The children became well informed about the nature of
art dealing, yet Electra was the only Havemeyer child to follow
her parents' collecting habits, exemplified in her creation of the
Shelburne Museum. Electra's collection of Americana artifacts
reflects her close relationship with father Harry and childhood
family vacations worldwide.
Harry died of a ruptured pancreas in 1907 devastating
the family. He told a then 18 year-old Electra
"Boss, take care of your mother" (The Proud Possessors) and though Electra favored her father
she devoted herself to mother Louisine as requested.
wrote in Notes By
Electra Havemeyer...: "Father died when I was only 18 years old and mother
continued collecting until she died seventeen years later. During
those years I spent a great deal of time with her. She told of the
pleasure she and father had collecting and how they loved living
with all their objects."