Updated: May 26, 2020
The known details about this cushion cover are limited. It 50cm x 67cm, was donated to MFA Boston in the mid-20th century by Elizabeth Day McCormick. It has no other provenance, though a lot of hints about it’s time and place of origin, which we will explore in future posts. For now, let’s talk a little bit about the collector.
Elizabeth Day McCormick (1873-1957) was a prolific textile collector born into a wealthy Chicago family who spent her life being inspired by European and world art and culture. While she was conventionally educated and lived most of her life as a standard socialite-hostess-philanthropist-tastemaker, we suspect she was a bit of an iconoclast with bohemian tendencies. She never married and in the 1920s (when she was in her 50s) she moved out of her family’s home and into her own chic Chicago apartment, surrounded by her growing art collection. Elizabeth was drawn to an artistic lifestyle, was praised as a textile artist in her own right, and ran a studio where she trained girls in needlework and lace making with the idea of giving them the ability to earn a living. Her work in embroidery gave her an expert eye in textiles and needlework in specific. She spent time living in Paris, collecting a vast trove of paintings, ceramics, jewelry, furniture, and, notably, an extensive collection of textiles before leaving in a hurry in 1939, recognizing the danger of Hitler’s move across Europe.
Back in the United States, was active in lending pieces of her collection to various institutions for display, but she developed a relationship with Gertrude Townsend, the textiles curator of the Museum of Fine Arts Boston. Through a series of loans and special exhibitions, Gertude and Elizabeth worked together to bring her impressive collection into the public eye. Elizabeth eventually donated her entire collection to the museum, pleased that she was handing her life’s work into appreciative and caring hands.
Interestingly, we were unable to find an image of Elizabeth Day McCormick, though she was both wealthy and lived in an age of photography. Happily, a relative of hers read this post and sent us this photo! Thank you so much.