Hula painting by Cogswell found in California, 1939.

Cogswell’s Model: J. T. Phillips, general manager of the Pacific Guano & Fertilizer Co., is anxious to know if the Hawaiian girl who posed for this painting by William Cogswell in 1892 is still living in Hawaii.—Star-Bulletin photo.

Rare Old Painting Found By Phillips in California

Another one of the works of William Cogswell, whose paintings of King Kalakaua and Queen Liliuokalani are hung in Iolani palace, was discovered by J. T. Phillips, general manager of the Pacific Guano & Fertilizer Co., during his recent business trip to the coast.

In an old San Francisco bookstore Mr. Phillips, who is a collector of rare books, prints, engravings and etchings concerning the Pacific area, found the 1892 painting by Cogswell.

The scene depicts a Hawaiian girl with a maile lei around her neck and a rose studded wreath in her hair posing with a guitar in her hands.

When found by Mr. Phillips, the painting was black and dirty. it had come from an old Sacramento family. The painting was sent to the San Francisco municipal academy, and there cleaned so that it once again gave forth its Rembrandt-like technique of art.

The work is called The Hawaiian Minstrel and was painted in 1892. Painter Cogswell, who also did a portrait of Sanford B. Dole, first president of the republic of Hawaii, and first governor of the territory, was born in Fabius, N. Y., in 1819, and died in Pasadena, Cal., in 1903. Many of his words are in the Bishop museum.

The Hawaiian girl in the painting appears to be in her late teens or early 20s. Mr. Phillips is very much interested in finding out whether she is still living in Hawaii. If she were 20 when she sat for the painting she would be 67 years old today.

An interesting feature in the life of Painter Cogswell while in Honolulu concerns his painting of King Kalakaua. This was done in 1891, and the painting was hung in the palace without belonging to the territory until 1927.

In 1892 Cogswell requested payment of $3,000 for the work. Queen Liliuokalani paid the money and got a receipt.

Finally, in 1927, trustees of the Liliuokalani estate presented the receipt to the Hawaiian legislature, thereby transferring ownership to the territory. The legislature expressed its gratitude and the receipt was ordered filed in the archives.

The Cogswell painting has been on display in a window at M. McInerny, Ltd., Fort and Merchant Sts.

[This is perhaps one of the ten hula portraits mentioned in the earlier post.]

(Star-Bulletin, 8/4/1939, p. 9)


Honolulu Star-Bulletin, Volume XLVI, Number 14631, Page 9. August 4, 1939.

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