The Legacy of Kate Webb Harris, New York City and Shelburne, VT
On October 29-30, and November 18, 2016, Stair Galleries will be offering property from the Estate of Kate Webb Harris. Kate “Kitty” Harris was the eldest daughter of Kate and Harry Webb of Shelburne, VT, and a granddaughter of Electra Havemeyer and James Watson Webb. James Watson Webb was a Vanderbilt and an American polo champion in the 1920’s. He married Electra Havemeyer, daughter of Henry Osborne Havemeyer, the industrialist who collected Impressionist art under the guidance of artist Mary Cassatt. A large portion of the Havemeyer collection was bequeathed to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, along with the Havemeyer Family Papers.
The Webbs transformed a collection of farms in Vermont along Lake Champlain into a rambling country estate named Shelburne Farms. James Webb kept his polo horses at the farm, and commissioned artists like Frank Brook Voss to paint portraits of the Shelburne ponies. Included in the October 29-30th auction are portraits of several of his favorite polo horses, as well as paintings of other horses by artists Jean Bowman, Frank Brook Voss and Thomas Rowden. The core of Shelburne Farms remains intact today as an inn and a non-profit foundation dedicated to agriculture.
Electra Havemeyer Webb founded the Shelburne Museum in 1947 to preserve her family’s collection of horse-drawn carriages. Quickly, the museum became a project for her, providing a setting for various family collections and the eventual home of thirty-nine historic structures that Mrs. Webb relocated from around New England and New York. After her death, Mrs. Webb’s family built a memorial building to her on the grounds of the museum and installed there the interior of her Park Avenue apartment, complete with priceless Impressionist paintings from the Havemeyer collection.
Kate Webb Harris grew up in this interesting and privileged family, developing pursuits and philanthropic interests of her own. Her great love was the opera and she served on the Metropolitan Opera Guild Board for over thirty years. Mrs. Harris decorated her homes in New York City and Shelburne with pieces inherited from her parents and her grandmother, including a George IV mahogany three-pedestal dining table, to be offered October 29-30th with an estimate of $3,000-5,000. Her ex-husband, George Harris, was a bloodstock agent and their mutual love of horses and sporting art can be seen in the paintings, drawings and sculpture they lived with.
On November 18th, we will be offering over sixty lots of jewelry from Mrs. Harris’s collection. Highlights include Tiffany & Co. 18k gold and sapphire earrings, 18k gold bracelets, and colorful cocktail rings.
Mrs. Harris’s children are in the process of restoring the family’s house on part of the original Shelburne Farms property, insuring that the legacy of their family will continue for generations to come.