The Allen County Museum is proud to be home to two important paintings: John Singer Sargent’s portrait of Senator Calvin Brice and the portrait of Brice’s family by Carolus-Duran. The second painting was graciously donated to the Allen County Museum by the Western College Alumnae Association in 2022.  The entire project, including renovation to the stairwell, installation of the paintings, and conservation work has been made possible with support from the Ohio Humanities, Nutrien, and from an anonymous donor.

‘Senator Calvin Brice’ was painted by John Singer Sargent in 1898.  Sargent, the son of an American doctor, was born in Florence, Italy in 1856 and became the most popular portrait painter of his era.

Charles Auguste Émile Durand, known as Carolus-Duran, was a French painter and art instructor who was born in 1837. Sargent was one of his pupils.

Calvin Stewart Brice was born in Morrow County, Ohio. Brice was the son of Rev. William K. and Elizabeth Stewart Brice. He did his preparatory and undergraduate work at Miami University, Oxford, where he enlisted in the Union Cause. Following his time in college and military service, he returned to Lima, where his family had moved. Brice then pursued graduate work at the law school of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and was admitted to the bar.  He practiced in Lima but was not overly successful until he expanded his view to include the legal problems of the railroads.  He first worked with the Lake Erie & Western Railroad and then became involved in the development of the Nickel Plate Road.  Overall, he helped organize eleven railroads during his career. He was a delegate from Ohio at the 1888 Democratic National Convention, and the following year Brice was elected Chairman of the Democratic National Committee. In 1890, he was elected Senator from Ohio and served from 1891 through 1897.  At the time of his death in 1898, he was beginning to launch a Chinese railroad.

The Brice women pictured here, from left to right, are Margaret Katherine Brice, Catherine Olivia Meily Brice, and Helen Olivia Brice. The Brice family was widely known in social circles across the globe. They attended lavish parties across Europe and in the United States and were even invited to dinner with royalty, such as Queen Victoria. Along with all of the benefits that came with being wealthy socialites, the Brice family were also avid philanthropists in their communities.

Mrs. Catherine Olivia Meily Brice, nicknamed Liv or Leve ( 8/16/1840), married the Hon. Calvin Brice on September 9, 1869. They had five children: three sons and the two daughters included in this portrait. Mrs. Brice was well known for her fashion as she and her daughters would frequent the top designers in Paris, France before the social season to get the latest silk, velvet, and lace dresses. Liv attended Oxford Female College, later named Western College for Women at Miami University, where she studied to become a teacher. When she was 14, she met Calvin, a young attorney serving as a State Board of Education examiner. She passed her board certification. Liv was a teacher for several years at area schools prior to her marriage. She later served as president of the Oxford/Western College Alumnae Association, as a member of the seminary board of trustees, and initiated several endowment funds at Western College. Due to Liv’s great love for education and the arts, she donated a substantial amount of money towards the creation of a public library here in Lima. She also donated funds for a building at her alma mater named Alumnae Hall, which had an ornate stained glass window installed as a gift from her graduating class. Catherine was also politically active independent of her spouse. In 1874, Catherine delivered arousing speech for temperance in Lima, drawing a large crowd of supporters. She passed away in 1900, almost two years to the date and hour of the passing of her husband, Calvin. They are both buried in the family plot at Woodlawn Cemetery in Lima. She was instrumental in the design of their family’s tomb.

The daughters, Helen Olivia (11/10/1871 – 1/19/1950) and Margaret Katherine “Kate” (7/30/1873 – 7/29/1911), were highly sought after in the social seasons in New York and Newport, Rhode Island. The social season extended from the spring through the end of summer when the largest number of parties, balls, and charity events happened for the social elite. In 1896, both were named to the list of the 20 most eligible and wealthy people of the season. Despite that fact, however, they both remained unmarried and were wealthy independent socialites and philanthropists living in Manhattan, New York in the early 20th century. Helen used her social connections to gain Andrew Carnegie’s financial support to partially fund and begin the library here in Lima. Andrew Carnegie was an American industrialist and steel magnate who helped fund public libraries across the country.