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Local family donates valuable Yousuf Karsh portraits to Polk Museum of Art in Florida
Cox and her siblings recently donated both photographs, as well as the correspondence authenticating them.
LAKELAND, FL.- Susan Cox of Lakeland found the portraits of Winston Churchill and Gen. John Pershing tucked in the bottom dresser drawer in her late father’s home. She recognized the work of photographer Yousuf Karsh, and then found correspondence between Karsh and her father, David P. Hauseman. After consulting with a friend and an art dealer, she found out just how valuable her discovery was.

Cox and her siblings recently donated both photographs, as well as the correspondence authenticating them, to Polk Museum of Art. Her siblings are Debbie Viertel of Lakeland; Carolyn Eng of Orlando; and David Hauseman of Birmingham, Ala.; and Jeanette Merkel of Thousand Oaks, Calif.

The photographs that Cox found were original silver gelatin prints bearing Karsh’s signature. Cox had forgotten that her father had prints by Karsh (1908-2002), an Armenian-Canadian artist who is widely considered one of the most accomplished portrait photographers of all time. Hauseman, while a cadet at West Point, had worked as Karsh’s assistant for a time. In 1945, he helped at the Pershing shoot and, as noted in a Readers’ Digest story on the photo, Hauseman was saluted by Pershing afterward. Apparently Hauseman wrote Karsh and asked for a copy of the photograph, which Karsh sent, along with the Churchill.

Karsh’s iconic photograph of Churchill, titled “The Roaring Lion,” was shot December 30, 1941, immediately after Churchill addressed the Canadian Parliament. Churchill, in a foul mood, stormed into an anteroom and told Karsh he had two minutes to take the photo, Karsh wrote in his book, “Faces of Our Time.” He recalled that he yanked Churchill’s cigar from his mouth, leaving the prime minister scowling, “regarding my camera as he might regard the German enemy.” The photo, which some say is the most reproduced image in history, graced the cover of Life magazine when World War II ended, and it will appear on the Bank of England’s 5-pound note to be issued in 2016.

Both photographs were developed and signed by Karsh himself. They were found still in the original sleeve from Karsh’s studio.

Cox showed the photographs to a friend, Robert Puterbaugh of Lakeland, an art collector who is especially interested in photography. Familiar with Karsh’s work, he recommended Cox contact New Orleans gallery owner Joshua Mann Pailet, who appraised the work for the estate before they were donated to the Museum.

“The portrait of Churchill is one of the most famous of all time. Both portraits exemplify Karsh’s gift at capturing the inner life and dignity of his subjects,” said Claire Orologas, executive director of Polk Museum of Art. “His work can be found in the permanent collections of some of the most important art museums in the world. We are deeply grateful to the Hauseman family for entrusting us with works of such historic and artistic importance.”

The photographs will be on view prominently in the Museum for the public to enjoy from October 12 through December 7.

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