Francis Davis Millet American Painter Lost his Life On The Titanic
Today is the 100 anniversary of the launch of the S.S. Titanic in Belfast. Little recorded artwork was claimed through insurers in the sinking of the Titanic in 1912 and as we approach the centenary of the tragedy, it is curious to learn that the interiors, with all of it’s opulence, had little original art commissioned of note. Most authors have overlooked the fact that there was still important art lost on the voyage.
Francis Davis Millet (November 3, 1846 – April 15, 1912) was a well known American painter who died on the ill fated voyage. He was known for his murals at the Boston public library and for a series of salon style paintings of considerable reputation. He was a close friend and colleague of John Singer Sargent. Millet was one of the highest profile passengers to go down at sea but his name has faded with time and little recognition is accorded to his legacy of work. . The painter was born in Massachusetts, and was a drummer boy in the Civil War, but he spent 25 years living and painting in the South Worcestershire town of Broadway.It was reported that several of his paintings went down with the ship. Millet was the host of a small group of artists, including Americans, who congregated in Broadway at the end of the 19th Century. He lived at both Farnham House and Russell House. The group included,John Singer Sargent whose painting ‘Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose’ was painted in Broadway.
There can hardly be a tragedy in history that has intrigued and fascinated more than the sinking of the Titanic in l9l2. In the overrated film version “Titanic”, James Cameron alluded to lost Monet’s, Picasso’s, and Degas’. However it is thought that Cameron was just having fun when he added famous work like Picasso’s “demoiselles d avion” to spice up the film. A poor rendition about a third of the size is seen in Kate Winslet’s boudoir.The most spectacular object lost was a jeweled copy of The Rubaiyat, a collection of about 1,000 poems by the 11th-century Persian mathematician and astronomer Omar Khayyam. The binding of this incredibly luxurious book contained 1,500 precious stones, each set in gold. It had been sold at auction in March 1912 to an American bidder for £405 or around $1,900
It is known that A spectacular 4′ x 8′ painting by Blondel called “La Circassienene au Bain” was lost. It’s owner, Haken Bjornstrom-Steffansen claimed $100,000 for the work. Emilio Portaluppi claimed $3,000 for an autographed portrait of Garibaldi said to have been lost. There may have been more minor claims for artwork in the US civil claims records but they are difficult to access.