Ashland New Hampshire’s Famed Miniaturist Painter: Bertha Loraine (Webster) Starr (1886-1966)

Photograph of B. Loraine Webster taken in 1909 for her Vassar College yearbook.

A miniaturist artist is known as a “painter in little.” This style of painting began to thrive in France and Italy during the Renaissance. Later miniature portraits of the saints were hand-painted in missals, and the tiny portraits of the popes or royalty of Europe were popular. The Court of Henry VII appointed a miniaturist painter, and succeeding monarchs also sought their talents. In the United States, Edward G. Malbone and Edward Miles were early famous miniature painters.

Ivory was often used as the base on which to paint. A sketch was made first, lightly applied with a hard pencil. The miniaturist generally painted from life, in oil, watercolor or enamel, but mainly in watercolor.  Bertha Loraine (Webster) Starr was one such artist.

Heath, Harry S. “Rev. Lorin Webster.” St. Paul’s School.
Ohrstrom Library Digital Archives. Web. 15 Aug. 2018.

Bertha Loraine “Bobbie” Webster was born 24 June 1888 in Ashland, Grafton County, New Hampshire. In one of her biographies, Loraine is listed as being born in “Old Holderness,” and indeed the southwest portion of Holderness is now known as the village section of Ashland (incorporated 1868, twenty years before Loraine’s birth).  Loraine’s parents, Rev. Lorin & Jennie Josephine (Adams) Webster–were dynamic and interesting people [See additional information on them in the following genealogy].

Rev. Lorin Webster was born in Claremont NH on 29 July 1857 and was educated at St. Paul’s School, Trinity College (graduated 1880) and Berkeley Divinity School. He was the rector at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Ashland NH for 8 years. He was musically talented, athletic and a savvy businessman who was principal (or headmaster) and rector at The Holderness School from

Photograph of Mrs. Lorin (Jennie) Webster from New Hampshire state history of the Daughters of the American Revolution, 1930.

1892 to his retirement in 1922. At that time he moved to Peking, China where he was offered a professorship in English at the Peking Medical School, a part of the Rockefeller Foundation. He died there in 1923.

Jennie Josephine (Adams) Webster was a suffragist and active civic leader in New Hampshire. Among her many interests were historic preservation (NH Historical Society), genealogy (DAR and Colonial Dames) and women’s clubs.  Her educational background was graduate from high school followed by private tutors.  She and Rev. Lorin Webster had three children: Bertha Loraine (the subject of this story), Dr. Jerome Pierce Webster, and Harold Adams Webster.

Bertha Loraine Webster, nicknamed “Bobbie,” attended the local Ashland NH grammar school. Then, though it was a boys school, she attended Holderness School for two years, being the first woman to do so (as her father was then principal and rector). She then attended St. Mary’s School (a private Episcopal School for Girls) in Concord NH, graduating in June 1905. She graduated from Vassar College in June of 1909. Her Vassar graduation yearbook gives us some insight into Loraine’s personality. Her high school is given as Holderness School (rather than St. Mary’s which was

Vassar 1909 Yearbook.

later) and her quote is from Lewis Carroll’s poem You Are Old Father William: “And yet you continually stand on your head? Do you think at your age it is right?

Boston (MA) Museum of Fine Arts School, original building in Copley Square 1876-1911. Boston City Library Print Department.

 

Following graduation from Vassar she went on to study her art, and attended the Boston Museum of Fine Arts School (now part of Tufts).  She also studied with the Art Students League, American School of Miniature Painters, and with Mabel Welch, Elsie Dodge Patee, William Paxton, Philip Hale and Lewis Pilcher.

Loraine Webster taught at the Tewksbury School in Scarsdale, New York. The school “was established by Mrs. William D. Black as the Ingleside School at New Milford, CT in 1892. It was taken over by the Misses Tewksbury with financial support of friends of the

1917 ad in Harper’s Magazine

school.” Miss Edith Tewksbury, the principal, was a graduate of Wellesley. In 1915 the school moved to Scarsdale NY where it was located during Loraine Webster’s instruction.

The Hartford Courtant newspaper (Hartford CT) of 22 July 1917 page 28, published: “Rev. Dr. Lorin Webster of the Holderness School at Plymouth N.H. and Mrs. Webster have announced the engagement of their daughter, Miss Bertha Loraine Webster, to William Starr of Hope Manor, Eason Md. Since her graduation from Vassar College and from the Art Students’ League in New York, Miss Webster has been teaching art at the Tewksbury school for girls at Scarsdale, N.Y.

Watercolor on ivory; gold, portrait of Arthur Rowe, an actor by Loraine Webster Starr, Philadelphia Museum of Art

B. Loraine Webster married 10 Oct 1917 in Holderness NH to William James Starr, Jr., son of son of William J. & Ida May (Hill) Starr.   They moved to Easton, Talbot Co. Maryland, living with the Starr family in Hope House, that William Starr Senior had purchased in 1907 in poor condition and made many repairs and restorations.  Loraine’s sister-in-law (her husband’s sister) Ruth (Starr) Rose became an internationally renowned lithographer.

Loraine continued her craft of painting miniatures, and was included in many exhibitions, some of which are described here. The Philadelphia Museum of Art has one of her creations, shown here on the left, a portrait of Arthur Rowe.

The Catalogue of the Philadelphia Water Color Exhibition; Philadelphia Water Color Club, 1919, page 10, includes under Miniatures: LORRAINE WEBSTER STARR. 17 The Patriarch. 26. Perdita. (her address Hope House, Easton, Maryland).

The Detroit Free Press, Detroit Michigan, 22 Jan 1922 page 69: “In the Pennsylvania society [of Miniature Painters] there are some miniatures which are especially compelling. Mrs. John Minot Barrett, by Loraine Webster Starr, is lovely in composition and color, and unusual. The ivory is round with the seated figure on the left–a white and gold radiance against a peacock blue background that is reminiscent of Holbien‘s color. The hands, just visible, clasp a lily.

The Star-Democrat, Easton, Maryland, 23 Nov 1951, page 11: “In the jury-judged Contemporary Exhibition of Miniatures, Mrs. William Starr’s (Lorraine Webster Starr) miniature “Sandra” (the late Mrs. William J. Starr) is being shown.

The Detroit Free Press (Detroit Michigan) of 11 Aug 1966 page 23 published the following brief obituary: “Mrs. B. Lorraine Webster Starr, 79, painter of portrait miniatures who had works in the permanent collections of the Philadelphia Museum of Art and Vassar College; in New York.”

–PARTIAL GENEALOGY OF BERTHA LORAINE (WEBSTER) STARR–

Dr. Lorin Webster was born in Claremont NH 29 July 1857 the son of Loren Atkins and Sophronia Pierce Webster. He was a direct descendant of John & Mary (Shatswell) of Ipswich MA through their son Stephen & Hannah (Ayer) Webster of Haverhill MA. Dr. Lorin Webster was educated at St. Paul’s School, Concord and Trinity College, Hartford, Conn, where he was graduated with the degree of A.B. in 1880. “He won his degree of A.M. there in 1883, the same year he was graduated from Berkeley Divinity School. Trinity College also bestowed upon him in 1903 the degree of L.H.D. He was ordained deacon and priest of the Episcopal Church in 1883 and immediately became master of Holderness School, serving in that capacity a year, when he became rector of St. Mark’s parish at Ashland, continuing there until 1892, when he became record and headmaster of Holderness School.” He remained in that position until 1922. In that year he resigned from Holderness to accept a professorship in English at the Peking Medical School (Peking, China) a part of the Rockefeller Foundation. According to his obituary, he “was a musician of high order, being the author of many hymns, several of which have been published in England and other foreign countries. He was president of the New Hampshire Education Council in 1908-10; the New Hampshire Schoolmasters 1908-09; of the Grafton County Agricultural Fair Association 1896-1909; the New Hampshire Teachers’ Association 1899-1902; a member of the Psi Upsilon Fraternity, Phi Beta Kappa and a Mason.” He was in China when he died on 5 July 1923. His remains were returned to the United States where he was buried in Trinity Churchyard Cemetery, Holderness NH.  Dr. Lorin Webster married Jennie Josephine Adams, daughter of Daniel Heyes & Calista A. (Richardson) Adams, and a direct descendant of patriot Solomon Adams of Rowley MA who was on the list of men from the town of Rowley paid for services in the Continental Army during 1780; marched July 6, 1780, discharged 6 Dec 1780, service 5 months 17 days. She was born 11 July 1858, and died August 26, 1929. She is buried beside her husband in Trinity Churchyard, Holderness NH. Jennie J. (Adams) Webster was socially active, a member (along with her husband and children) of the New Hampshire Historical Society, a member and regent (1911 Plymouth) of the a NH chapter of the DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution), organizer of Asquamchumauke Chapter (now defunct); President of the Pemigewasset Woman’s Club of Plymouth NH (1900-1904), President of NH Federation of Women’s Club (1907-08), Society of Colonial Dames of America, Society for Protection of NH Forests, NH Board of American Red Cross (1909, 1918), American Home Economics Association, Friendly Club (Concord NH); NH State Chairman of the Committee for the Preservation of Historic Spots, D.A.R. Suffragist.
———————————————
Children of Lorin & Jennie J. (Adams) Webster:
1. Harold Adams Webster,  born 12 Aug 1885 Ashland NH, died August 1968 in Plymouth NH. He married 1st) 1 June 1918 Concord NH to Charlotte White, daughter of Nathaniel & Helen M. (Eastman) White, granddaughter of Nathaniel & Armenia Smith (Aldrich) White of Concord NH. They divorced. He married 2d) in Chester NH at The Parsonage on 4 Dec 1943 in NH to Constance Abbie Peabody, daughter of Lemuel Orcutt & Helen Blanche (Thornton) Peabody.  He graduated from Holderness School in 1904 and was hired by the school as curator (assisting his father) He left in 1917 being elected representative to the NH House. He was NH’s First Commissioner of Weights and Measures. By 1943 he was an executive for First National Stores. He was prominent in the S.A.R. (NH Sons of the American Revolution).
2. Bertha Loraine Webster, born 24 June 1887 Ashland, Grafton Co. NH, died 8 Aug 1966 at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital, Manhattan NY, aged 79.  She married 10 Oct 1917 in Holderness NH to William James Starr, son of William J. & Ida May (Hill) Starr. They lived in Easton MD.  This story is about her [SEE above].
3. Dr. Jerome Pierce Webster, born 2 August 1888 in Ashland NH, and died 14 November 1974 in Manhattan NY. He is buried in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, Sleepy Hollow, Westchester Co. NY.  He m1st) Geraldine Rockefeller; He m2d) Emily Brune Randall.
He attended Holderness School, and graduated from Trinity College, Hartford CT, graduating with a bachelor of arts degree. He graduated from John Hopkins School of Medicine in 1914 and served as a surgical intern there and a first year resident under J.M.T. Finney at Baltimore MD’s Union Memorial Hospital. In July of 1916 he was special assistant to the American Embassy in Berlin NH for inspections of Germany’s prisoner of war camps. He returned to the U.S. prior to the U.S. joining WWI. During WWI he was commissioned as a 1st Lieutenant in the US Army Medical Corps reserve, attached to the 30th Engineers, 1st Gas Regiment and his work in France was recognized with a Croix de Guerre by the French Government. In 1918 he returned to John Hopkins for additional surgical training, and then left for work in China where he was working when his father died.  He was a professor of surgery at Columbia University, and the first Director of Plastic Surgery at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center. He was founder of the American Board of Plastic Surgeons, and a longtime board member of Trinity College.

***ADDITIONAL READING***

Women Artists in America, Eighteenth Century to the Present, by J.L. Collins, M.F.A., 1973

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3 Responses to Ashland New Hampshire’s Famed Miniaturist Painter: Bertha Loraine (Webster) Starr (1886-1966)

  1. Amy says:

    What an educated and interesting family! And so talented as well. Thanks for sharing their story.

  2. Janet Barter says:

    I really enjoyed this story…I’d never known about miniature art, nor its artists! I bet all of the Websters mentioned were part of your family’s heritage. Thanks for sharing!

    • Janice Brown says:

      Janet, first thing thank you for taking the time to read and comment on this story. I’ve seen miniature paintings, but honestly didn’t know much about them until I was researching Bertha Webster Starr. As for her family, she descends directly from John and Mary Shatswell (my 8th great-grandparents), so we are cousins, by both John and twice through Mary Shatwell, who m2d) Stephen Emery. I happened to be browsing a book of New Hampshire artists, came across her, and wondered why I had not heard of her!

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