When You Collect Portraits of People You Don’t Know

I am a collector of many things.  MANY, MANY things. One of my favorite collections is that of vintage portraits. My favorites are ladies from the 1950s and 1960s. My latest find is this lovely woman, circa 1952:

vintage lady portrait

vintage portrait from EBTH

Currently, I have about 15 of these portraits. I have slowly collected them since I first found THIS stately lady in the garbage heap by the road about 12 years ago:

lady portrait


It had just begun raining as I was driving past, and I pulled over quickly to rescue her from ruin. It was right next door to my mother’s house, and I remember her being mortified that I had nabbed it from her neighbor’s trash pile (and that there was a possibility that the neighbor saw me load it into the back of my SUV before pulling into my mother’s driveway). Mom told me a dramatic story about how this was her neighbor’s former mother-in-law who was a former sister-in-law to President George Bush, Sr.  I honestly don’t know if that’s true (let’s just say she is prone to exaggeration), but we’ve always called her “Mrs. Putnam.” Now I can’t remember why.

I found this next portrait a couple of years later at a yard sale, rolled up in a tube. I thought she looked like a younger Mrs. Putnam!  Mr. Man mounted it on a frame for me. See the darker blue diamond shape on the stomach of her dress? I painted that with craft paint, because in the portrait’s original condition, there was a cut-out of fabric there baring her belly and the shadowing of underboob. I am not kidding. It was unnerving, so I made her less scandalous with my “alteration.”

lady portrait


After my father passed away, my mother let me have these portraits painted of them on their honeymoon in 1965. I have always loved them, and they now hang in my living room.

the decorologist living room


The only other “family” portrait I have is that of Mr. Man’s maternal grandmother:

vintage lady portrait


The best places to look for specific things you are collecting are online auction sites. I got my most recent lovely from Everything But The House (EBTH), which as you know, is one of my FAVORITE places to shop!  If you are looking for something in particular (like vintage portraits), you can simply type your search term in on their site and find lots of options!

Here are some more portraits in my collection:

1960s vintage portrait



This one is more of a pencil sketch:

vintage pencil sketch lady


mother and child portrait


This one is weird and cool – I found it at Goodwill for only $3.  She looks to be a hippy 1970s model, and she’s decoupaged onto wood with a gold leaf border.

1970s portrait







black african american lady vintage 1960s portrait


Except the one of my father, this is the only male portrait I have. He was hipster when hipster wasn’t cool:

male vintage portrait



So, I still haven’t figured out where to hang my latest EBTH find. Frankly, I’m running out of wall space! For now, she’s propped next to the fireplace. She just watches me quietly when I’m sitting on the sofa.

marble fireplace


Guess what’s happening RIGHT THIS MINUTE??? My house is being photographed by This Old House magazine for their 2016 “color issue.” My house hasn’t been this clean since the last photoshoot we had here! I guess I should have these more often 😉


This post was sponsored by EBTH, which has aided and abetted my ongoing search for vintage treasures. The struggle is real . . .

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4 years ago

I adore this. I love old portraits. I love faces. Faces of people or animals. I’ve been thinking of collecting and doing a wall of faces. You’re so cool. You just go about your own decorating inspired way being true to yourself. That’s why I come here.

4 years ago

Love them all! I could not pick my favorite. I was antiquing the other day and thought of you because there were a lot of old photos. But none that I really loved so I ended not getting one! 🙁 That’s the way shopping goes!
So excited for you for your photoshoot! So exciting. Your house is beautiful- it deserves to be shared. This Old House- awesome!:) 🙂 🙂

4 years ago

Beautiful! Some of these are stunning. Good call on the alteration! Maybe it was originally painted for a gentleman’s boudoir? ;o) BTW…it might be time to get a bigger house

4 years ago

Wow – my stomach dropped when I saw the Christ Child & Mary picture. My mother had the same print on our living room wall when I was growing up in the 50’s & 60’s.

4 years ago

I don’t have any paintings of people but I did pick up a portrait taken in the early 1900s of a young couple. There was something about the man’s smile that drew me to it. I have moved many times since then and it has moved rooms but it is still part of “our family”.
feel a little sad through when I think of someone throwing family portraits/paintings in the garbage/auction.

4 years ago

The portraits (and your home) are lovely. It’s incredible that someone would throw away the first one. It is so beautiful. I guess the lady was not very well liked by whoever inherited the painting. Sad, but I am glad that you rescued her.

Phyllis E
Phyllis E
4 years ago

What an interesting collection. I love seeing all the interesting objects in your home! (And I love to see you breaking the design staging “rules” (not too personal, no clutter) for your personal space!! (I would buy your house in a heartbeat even with all that personality–because it is so charmingly done!) I just wanted to say that I immediately recognized the “hippy” lady from the 1970’s. Not the actual model –but the print. I remember it being a very popular one that was seen many place. My mom had a framed print of her in our home- with out… Read more »

Browning Frazier
4 years ago

I am CRAZY for vintage “lady” portraits! The first one you got is absolutely stunning.

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