“Mrs. Noland, I hesitate to suggest it, but do you think you might eliminate molasses from the boys’ breakfast?”

Rosalie Noland had welcomed the school headmistress to her home with her typical southern hospitality and grace, but the conversation had taken an unexpected turn.

Mrs. Noland had recently insisted her seven children learn civility and culture, and had brought them to Washington, D. C. for proper schooling. The children were not adjusting to city life well, and they longed to return to their country home in Middleburg, Virginia. Charlotte, the third oldest at age 13, deeply resented being away from her beloved animals and countryside and acting out had become common. But what did that have to do with the boys of the family eating molasses for breakfast?

Charlotte had been arriving to school late every day. When questioned, she blamed her tardiness on dish-washing duty, claiming that the sticky molasses on the plates prevented a prompt arrival. Unfortunately, that turned out to be a lie. Instead of going to school, Charlotte was sneaking off to a local zoo and helping the zookeeper train and feed a raccoon! The story is told in Charlotte’s biography, Charlotte Haxall Noland 1883-1969, published in 1970 by Foxcroft School.

burrland
The Noland family home, Burrland, in Middleburg, Virginia. From Charlotte Haxall Noland 1883-1969, 1970, published by Foxcroft School.

Ultimately, Charlotte was expelled for her truancy, and over the next two years, the educational struggle continued at other schools in Washington and Baltimore. Charlotte insisted that the teachers didn’t understand her, and that they made the lessons boring and inaccessible. She began to plot for her own school, a cherished dream that would some day come true.

Charlotte Haxall Noland (1883-1969) spent her childhood leading others (sometimes into mischief) and riding the farm horses around her family home of Burrland. The family reunited with Burrland after two years in the city, and a year later Charlotte went to stay with her aunt in Richmond to make her debut. It was an unqualified success, but upon her return home, the pragmatic Charlotte assessed the ritual as “a lot of fun, but really a waste of time.”

noland-on-screwdriver
Miss Charlotte on Screwdriver. From Charlotte Haxall Noland 1883-1969.

A turning point came when Charlotte went to work. She found employment as the physical education teacher at St. Timothy’s School in Baltimore, and found that the gym suited her well. She went on to teach at Bryn Mawr School in a similar capacity, refining ideas for her dream school. Eventually she enrolled in a summer course in physical education through the Sargent School at Harvard where she learned the rules and how to officiate a new sport known as basketball.

noland-luray
Foxcroft students riding to Luray, Virginia. From Charlotte Haxall Noland 1883-1969.

Upon returning to Baltimore, Charlotte set up a gymnasium for girls, finding clients from all the surrounding schools. She built up enough capital to open her dream school, near her hometown of Middleburg. The school was named Foxcroft School (Charlotte fell in love with the name when she walked past a family home belonging to a Major Foxcroft one summer) and opened in 1914. Charlotte had her dream school at age 31.

Portrait of Miss Charlott Noland
Portrait of Miss Charlotte Noland, by Ellen Emmett Rand, The Collection of Foxcroft School, Middleburg, VA [image source: http://www.foxcroft.org/podium/default.aspx?t=204&sdb=1&nid=602199]
In many ways, Foxcroft was an expression of Charlotte Noland’s belief in the virtues of sport and physical competition. The school motto is “mens sana in corpore sano” (a healthy mind in a healthy body). Beagling was an early mandatory excursion for all students. A basketball tradition was founded at Foxcroft with an annual Thanksgiving game between the school’s two houses, the Foxes and the Hounds.

noland-foxes1916
The Foxes, 1916: Sophie Fisher, Louise Stovall, Mildred Bromwell, Erwin Hayward (Capt.) Elizabeth Tomlin, Kitty Ulman. From Charlotte Haxall Noland 1883-1969.

Other sporting traditions began to take shape: the girls were trained in riding (aside or astride) by Miss Charlotte (as she would be called forever afterward) and, with parental approval, be given training on jumping their steeds. Students spent a weekend each year riding their horses to Luray, Virginia (a round trip of over 100 miles). A Coon Hunt was organized every October, and very soon the school had its own horse show.

noland-vanepps
Miss Charlotte on Van Epps, with the hunt girls. From Charlotte Haxall Noland 1883-1969.

From 1932 to 1946, Miss Charlotte served as Joint Master to the Middleburg Hounds with Daniel Sands. Early in the school’s development, she allowed the best riders from among her students to ride with the Middleburg Hunt. Miss Charlotte’s hunting career eventually came to an end, as she never truly recovered from a bad fall while hunting. She gradually lost the full use of her injured leg, and riding became difficult. Instead, she turned to fishing, spending her retirement in her boat, “The Sea Fox,” and she reportedly caught a 68 pound marlin!

noland-winningteam
The Winning Hunt Team: General Billy Mitchell, Miss Charlotte on Winterweather, and Frederick Warburg. From Charlotte Haxall Noland 1883-1969.

Many of the sporting traditions at the school have continued on, and riding is still a signature program of the school. Today, Foxcroft School is a cornerstone of Virginia’s hunt country and an embodiment of its founder’s vision.


Wedding Photography by Spiering Photography

John Connolly has served as the George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Librarian at the National Sporting Library & Museum (NSLM) since early 2014. He is responsible for the care of the Library collections, including books, magazines, photographs, diaries, letters, and much more. The NSLM collections span over 350 years of the history of equestrian sport, as well as fly fishing, wing shooting, and other field sports. Have a question? Contact John by e-mail

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The village of Middleburg and its surrounding beautiful Virginia hunt country boast numerous famous residents and visitors, both past and present. The portrait painter Ellen Gertrude Emmet Rand (1876-1941) can now officially be added to this list.

Rand was among the first females in the United States to succeed as a professional portrait artist. She was a contemporary of Mary Foote who painted Rand’s portrait.

Mary Foote (American, 1847-1938), Portrait of Ellen Emmet, c. 1907 image source: https://i0.wp.com/www.askart.com/photos2/2014/BAR20080801_6627/170.jpg
Mary Foote (American, 1847-1938), Portrait of Ellen Emmet, c. 1907 [ image source: http://www.askart.com/photos2/2014/BAR20080801_6627/170.jpg ]

Rand was formally trained, having attended classes at Cowles Art School in Boston and the Art Student League in New York City. She received instruction from some of the greats of her generation, studying at William Merritt Chase’s school in Shinnecock, New York, and with Frederick MacMonnies in Paris.

Ellen Emmet Rand, Frederick MacMonnies In His Studio, ca. 1898, William Benton Museum of Art Collection © University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT. http://benton.uconn.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/1519/2016/05/1969.17.jpg
Ellen Gertrude Emmett Rand (1875 – 1941), Frederick MacMonnies In His Studio, ca. 1898, William Benton Museum of Art Collection © University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT. [image source: http://benton.uconn.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/1519/2016/05/1969.17.jpg ]
Rand is perhaps best known for painting the official presidential portrait of Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1934, among the hundreds of portraits which she completed of politicians, captains of industry, socialites, artists, and scholars throughout her over forty-year career.

In 1936, the Sporting Gallery in New York City held an exhibition titled Sporting Portraits by Ellen Emmet Rand, N.A., featuring twenty of her hunt paintings. Among these, seven were of Virginia-based sitters. I have been researching this exhibition for an essay I am contributing to a book being developed for the University of Connecticut/William Benton Museum’s upcoming retrospective exhibition, The Business of Bodies: Ellen Emmet Rand (1875-1941) and the Persuasion of Portraiture, on view in Connecticut from October 2018 through March 2019.

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Photocopy of Sporting Portraits by Ellen Emmet Rand exhibition pamphlet cover from the Frick Reference Library, National Sporting Library & Museum, Ellen Emmet Rand Curatorial files
Photocopy of Sporting Portraits by Ellen Emmet Rand, N.A. exhibition pamphlet cover from the Frick Art Reference Library, New York, National Sporting Library & Museum, Ellen Emmet Rand Curatorial files
Photocopy of Sporting Portraits by Ellen Emmet Rand exhibition pamphlet pages 2 and 3 the Frick Reference Library, National Sporting Library & Museum, Ellen Emmet Rand Curatorial files
Photocopy of Sporting Portraits by Ellen Emmet Rand, N.A. exhibition pamphlet pages 2 and 3 from the Frick Reference Library, New York, National Sporting Library & Museum, Ellen Emmet Rand Curatorial files

In exploring Ellen Emmet Rand’s densely-written diaries (years 1918 and 1926-1941) which are housed in the Ellen Emmet Rand archives held at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut, I am beginning to discover entries about Rand’s travels to Middleburg and the surrounding region to paint. Some of these portraits were in the 1936 exhibition.

Rand stayed at the Red Fox Inn in Middleburg in 1929 to paint the portrait of Foxcroft School founder and jt-MFH of the Middleburg Hunt, Miss Charlotte Noland (#7 in the Sporting Gallery pamphlet). Rand received what would become one of her favorite mares, Gandora, in lieu of payment for the painting. She wrote on March 8, 1929:

The deal for this portrait is a very good mare of Miss Charlotte’s  thoroughly broken + a fine jumper + a good size + a good horse quite nice looking. That is Miss Charlotte’s return for the portrait + I am well satisfied. (1929 Diary, Ellen Emmet Rand Archive, Box 6, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut)

Considering Rand was making between $3,000 and $4,500 per painting that year, it must have been quite a horse!

, The Collection of Foxcroft School, Middleburg, VA [image source: http://www.foxcroft.org/podium/default.aspx?t=204&sdb=1&nid=602199
Ellen Gertrude Emmett Rand (1875 – 1941), Miss Charlotte Noland, Joint M.F.H., The Middleburg Hunt, 1929, oil on canvas, 40 x 30 inches, Foxcroft School, Middleburg, Virginia [image source: http://www.foxcroft.org/podium/default.aspx?t=204&sdb=1&nid=602199 ]
In April and October of 1930, Rand stayed at the Orange County Hunt Club in The Plains  to paint Mrs. Harriet Harper and her husband Mr. Fletcher Harper, Master of the Orange County (and an NSLM founder) respectively, #1 and 2 in the 1936 exhibition. (Read more about the couple here: Mr. and Mrs. Fletcher Harper by John Connolly) Rand only drew two sketches in her 1930 Diary; both were of Fletcher Harper. She made what she called “a fake start” of Mr. Harper’s portrait on October 1,1930:

October 1-2, 1930 diary entries by Ellen Emmet Rand
Sketch of Fletcher Harper, October 1-2, 1930 diary entries by Ellen Emmet Rand, 1930 Diary, Ellen Emmet Rand Archive, Box 6, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut

I started F. this p.m. Made a fake start, the position + lights were not quite right! I will make a fresh start tomorrow. He is awfully good fun to paint. (1930 Diary, Ellen Emmet Rand Archive, Box 6, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut)

The passage most likely refers to the incomplete painting in the NSLM’s permanent collection.

Ellen Gertrude Emmett Rand (American, 1875-1941) Study for Portrait of Fletcher Harper (1874-1963), c. 1931, oil on canvas, 45 x 34 ½ inches. National Sporting Library & Museum, gift of Mrs. Fletcher Harper, 1972.
Ellen Gertrude Emmett Rand (American, 1875-1941), Study for Portrait of Fletcher Harper (1874-1963), c. 1931, oil on canvas, 45 x 34 ½ inches. National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of Mrs. Fletcher Harper, 1972

The artist, however, did not only come to Virginia hunt country to work. She and her husband William Blanchard Rand were both accomplished equestrians and sometimes made trips to The Plains on and around Thanksgiving to ride, shop for horses, attend the Warrenton Point-to-Point, visit with friends and acquaintances, foxhunt, and hilltop. Rand’s portrait completed in January 1936 of her husband, who was MFH of Old Chatham and a polo player, depicts him in his hunt attire. It was #12  in the 1936 Sporting Gallery exhibition.

William B. Rand, ca. 1935
Ellen Gertrude Emmett Rand (American, 1875-1941), William B. Rand, ca. 1935, William Benton Museum of Art Collection © University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT. [image source: http://benton.uconn.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/1519/2016/05/1969.18.jpg ]
It is not surprising that Ellen Emmet Rand as a portrait painter who loved horses would be drawn to the Middleburg area. I look forward to discovering other local places she may have rested her head as I continue to delve into her first-person account to research the 1936 Sporting Gallery exhibition.

If you are willing to share information about any Ellen Emmet Rand works, especially the whereabouts of any of the Sporting Gallery exhibition paintings listed above, please contact me. It is an opportunity to flesh out scholarship with nine specialists who are focusing on the life and times of Ellen Emmet Rand. Not only will the research support this project, but we are developing an exhibition for the National Sporting Library & Museum as well.

Writer's Retreat, December 1, 2016, Essay authors consult the Ellen Emmet Rand manuscript collection at UConn’s Archives and Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center.
Writer’s Retreat, December 1, 2016, Essay authors consult the Ellen Emmet Rand manuscript collection at UConn’s Archives and Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center. Project lead and Curator: Alexis Boylan, UConn-Art & Art History; Essay Contributors: Emily Burns, Auburn University; Betsy Fahlman, Arizona State University; William Harris, Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum (not pictured); Elizabeth Lee, Dickinson College; Emily Mazzola, Fitchburg Art Museum; Claudia Pfeiffer, National Sporting Library & Museum (not pictured); Susan Spiggle, UConn- School of Business; Thayer Tolles, Metropolitan Museum of Art; and Christopher Vials, UConn-English (not pictured).

pfeifferClaudia Pfeiffer has been the George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Curator of Art at the National Sporting Library & Museum since the position was underwritten by the George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Foundation in 2012. Her primary focus is the research, design, interpretation, writing, and installation of exhibitions. E-mail Claudia at cpfeiffer@nationalsporting.org