Portrait of Fay Bainter

Artist: Robert Henri
Portrait of Fay Bainter, a painting

Robert Henri (1865-1929), Portrait of Fay Bainter, 1918, oil on canvas, 41 x 32 7/8 inches, Brigham Young University Museum of Art, gift of R. Phillip and Linda Rasmussen.

Commentary by Barta Heiner
Professor of Acting

Robert Henri has rendered a lovely portrait of young Fay Bainter in repose. We see her as a very thoughtful perhaps melancholy person, who is looking to the future. I thought it was interesting that he painted her wearing a wristwatch, an accouterment that is very important for an actress who is on a tight rehearsal or filming schedule. Also, her clothing is a simple muted color, but with intricacies in the sleeves and collar, perhaps suggesting that she was unassuming yet when one looked closer they found someone who had many levels to their personality.

In some ways, however, the depth and variety of Ms. Bainter’s acting abilities are not fully expressed in this early painting. She was the first actress to receive an Academy Award nomination for best actress and best supporting actress in the same year (receiving the best supporting actress award for her performance of Aunt Belle in the movie Jezebel in 1938). Her diverse film roles included Walter Mitty’s mother in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Susan Throssel in Quality Street (one of my favorites), Mrs. Gibbs in Our Town, and Mrs. Tilford in The Children’s Hour. Her performances were subtle, warm, delightful and poignant…all of them earning her a star on the Hollywood Boulevard Walk of Fame.


Click here to read Professor Dennis R. Perry’s response

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