James Lee Haggin

portrait of son

Biography of James Ben Ali Haggin III

1882 - 1951

By: Geoffrey K. Fleming

Ben Ali Haggin

James Ben Ali

James Ben Haggin. Portrait painter and stage designer, most commonly referred to as "Ben Ali Haggin." James Ben Ali Haggin (III) was born in New York City, the son of James Ben Ali Haggin Jr. (1853-1891) and Lee Wood (1856-1934). He was the namesake of his illustrious grandfather James Ben Ali Haggin Sr. (1822-1914), the famous turfman and California mining millionaire.

Ellen Farnsworth Loomis

Portrait of Ellen H. Farnsworth Loomis

Ben Haggin attended the Pomfret School in Connecticut and later the Thatcher School in Ojai, California close to where his grandfather had lived. In New York, he studied under the noted educator Frederick S. Grow (1868-1933). His art training began with travel to Munich, Bavaria where he studied at the Academy there, later returning to this country to study at the Art Students League in New York City.

He married Ms. Margaret Faith Robinson (1883-1958) in November of 1903 at the Little Church Around the Corner. She was the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Jeremiah Robinson of New York City and Narragansett, Rhode Island. Soon after their return from their honeymoon, Haggin began to paint portraits professionally.

He began exhibiting formally in the United States at the National Academy of Design in New York City, the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia, and at the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, D. C., in the year 1908.

Also in that year his portrait of Ms. Mary Garden as "Thais," which caused great excitement at the time, was exhibited in the windows of The Knoedler Art Gallery. At that time Haggin was working out of a studio at 27 West 67th Street. In 1910 he exhibited again at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts.

The MacDowell Club at 108 West 55th Street invited Haggin and several of his contemporaries to exhibit there in November of 1911.

In addition to Haggin, some of the other artists who were included in the exhibition were

Portrait of artist Gordon Grant

Portrait of artist Gordon Grant. 1932

George Bellows (1882-1925),
Robert Henri
Jonas Lie
(1880-1940), and
Irving Wiles

This exhibition was one of the first to attempt to dispense with the "Jury System" of selecting works by allowing a committee of participating artists to determine whose work should be hung.


Yellow Jacket Portrait of Juiliette Day
c 1913

In 1912 Haggin was elected as an Associate Academician (A.N.A.) of the National Academy of Design and became a founding member of the National Association of Portrait Painters.

Their first exhibition was held in March of that year where Haggin exhibited two works, portraits of "Miss Marjorie Curtis" and "Mrs. Wilfrid Buckland."

Later that year a selection of Haggin's portraits where exhibited at the Glaenzer Galleries and featured works that were called " . . . brilliant and vivacious to the verge of unreality."

They included portraits of Mrs. Leo Everett, Ms. Kitty Gordon, Mademoiselle Rita Sacchetto, Otis Skinner, Margaret Lee, and others.

Portrait of an Actress

Portrait of an actress

Written and submitted May 2005 by Geoffrey K. Fleming, Director
Southold Historical Society, Southold, New York

* Editor Note: Images added

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