March 9, 2007

Kirkland portrait comes ‘home’ to Nursing School

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The Kirkland portrait returns to VUSN. (photo by Susan Urmy)

Kirkland portrait comes ‘home’ to Nursing School

After more than 35 years, the portrait of Mary Henderson Kirkland is back at the Vanderbilt University School of Nursing.

Former Vanderbilt Chancellor James Hampton Kirkland (1893-1937) and Mary Henderson were married in 1895, the same year the painting was created by A.A. Lutz. A work of oil on canvas, the portrait features Mrs. Kirkland in a relaxed pose that was atypical of paintings at that time. The piece hung for many years in the Atlanta Exposition as a symbol of young womanhood in Tennessee until Mrs. Kirkland donated it to the VUSN building, which at the time was named Mary Kirkland Hall, at the 1945 All-School banquet.

The portrait was a constant fixture at the school for nearly 20 years, even as the building was renamed Mary Henderson Hall and underwent renovations, but the piece was in dire need of restoration due to exposure and a mysterious beauty mark that appeared on her face one year.

After restoration, the portrait was displayed at several places across the Vanderbilt campus, and since 1990 has been hanging in Kirkland Hall.

With the Godchaux Hall renovations near completion, Chancellor Gordon Gee agreed with a request by VUSN Dean Colleen Conway-Welch, Ph.D., to return Mrs. Kirkland to the Nursing school.

Today as faculty, students and others walk up the stairs and through the historic doors of Godchaux Hall, they can see the portrait of Mrs. Kirkland on the left and the portrait of the building's namesake, Mary Ragland Godchaux, on the right.