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Howard Mansfield, 1849-1938

Nationality: American
Date of Birth: 2 July 1849
Place of Birth: Hamden CT


Howard Mansfield of Naugatuck, CT, was a New York lawyer and major collector of Whistler's etchings. He married Nellie Coolidge Tuttle in 1895.


Mansfield was a lawyer in the firm of Lord, Day & Lord from 1884 to 1901, having studied at Yale and Columbia universities and being called to the bar in 1874. He later became a keen supporter of cultural causes; he was a trustee of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and later became its first acting curator of Asian art until a staff curator was appointed.

C. L. Freer first saw Whistler's etchings in Mansfield's collection in 1887. Mansfield built up an outstanding collection of 420 Whistler etchings and 162 lithographs, which was sold in 1919 for about $350,000 to Harris Whittemore ('Widdemare' according to the New York Times, which also originally stated the price to be close to half a million dollars). It included many rare states and fine impressions built up through a close relationship with the artist. Whistler put aside particularly high quality impressions for Mansfield. K4080105 was dedicated to Mansfield on the verso. The New York Times declared on 2 March 1919: ''The collection assembled by Mr. Mansfield, who sought quality rather than quantity, literally is without a blemish or flaw." In 1920 loans from his print collection were made to an exhibition celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

Mansfield's knowledge of Whistler as a printmaker was extensive and in 1909 he published a comprehensive catalogue of Whistler's etchings that is notable for its careful observations and descriptions; however, it was criticised by Joseph Pennell in 1912 for entering into "the dangerous realms of trials and states". He also published a catalogue of the work of Charles Meryon, A catalogue of etchings and drawings by Charles Meryon and portraits of Meryon in the Howard Mansfield collection (1911).

As well as prints, Mansfield's collection included Japanese paintings and ceramics. He sold his complete collection of Meryon etchings to the Art Institute of Chicago in 1909 and donated many etchings by Charles Storm van S'Gravesande to New York Public Library. The Howard Mansfield papers are held in the Manuscripts and Archives Division of New York Public Library.


New York Times, 21 July 1912, p. 10; New York Times, 5 February 1919, p. 10; New York Times, 2 March 1919, p. 16; New York Times, 8 May 1920, p. 14; Lugt, Frits, Les marques de collections de dessins et d'estampes: marques estampillèes et écrites de collections particulières et publiques; marques de marchands, de monteurs et d'imprimeurs; etc..., Amsterdam, 1921 (1342, 1782); Who Was Who in America, vol. 1, 1897-1942, Chicago, 1943.

Mansfield, Howard, A Descriptive Catalogue of the Etchings and Dry-Points of James Abbott McNeill Whistler, Chicago, 1909; Mansfield, Howard, 'Whistler as a critic of his own prints', Print Collector's Quarterly, vol. 3, no. 4, December 1913, pp. 366-93; Mansfield, Howard, 'Concerning a Whistler Portrait: Mr Mann or Mr Davis?,' The Print-Collector's Quarterly, vol. 4, no. 4, December 1914, pp. 382-91; Mansfield, Howard, 'Whistler in Belgium and Holland', Print Collector's Quarterly, vol. 16, December 1916, pp. 374-95; Mansfield, Howard, 'Charles Lang Freer,' Parnassus, vol. 7, no. 5, October 1935, pp. 16-18, 31.