Alumni Families / "Portrait of a Young Girl"
By Laura Tiffany
The terra cotta sculpture that once adorned Gladys Montgomery’s
Beverly Hills living room has found a new home at Pomona, thanks to a
donation by Montgomery’s granddaughter Christine Cahill ’74. It’s an
apt homecoming for the near-life-size Portrait of a Young Girl, which was
sculpted by Susi Singer as a likeness of Gladys’ daughter and Christine’s
mother, Jeanne Montgomery Cahill ’40.
Gladys and her husband Victor were avid patrons of the arts in Los
Angeles who brought their patronage to Pomona when Jeanne and her
brother Victor Jr. ’41 attended the College. Gladys became a trustee in 1948, and chaired
the Academic Affairs Committee of the Board in the late 1950s when discussions turned to enhancing the art
facilities. Her husband Victor funded a new fine arts building in 1958, which was dubbed
the Gladys K. Montgomery Arts Center, and supported subsequent expansions in 1968 and
1977. The music library in the Thatcher Music Building is also named for Victor Montgomery.
Singer (1891-1955) was a recognized Austrian sculptor who fled Europe in 1937 due to her Jewish ancestry and the
rising Third Reich. She later taught at Scripps and appeared in the first Scripps Ceramic Annual. Cahill says
that her mother met Singer while at Pomona, and considered the artist a friend.
“Gladys Montgomery purchased the sensitive portrayal of a young woman soon after Susi Singer established her studio in Pasadena. It
seems a graceful way to welcome, and support, an artist recently widowed and displaced by the gathering storm in Europe,” says Kathleen
Howe, director of the Pomona College Museum of Art. “This delicate depiction of young Jeanne Montgomery would have been completed
around the time that she graduated from Pomona College.”
Christine Cahill, who has many family portraits showing the piece in the background, inherited it from her mother, who had received it when
Gladys passed away. “I just think it’s such a beautiful piece,” says Cahill, who lives in Big Bear Lake, California, and fondly recalls her days at
Pomona. “It seems substantial, but around the little fringed edges, it can easily be broken. I wanted to have it in a place that I felt was safer and
where potentially more people could see it.”
Howe says that after some minor cleaning and stabilization, the Museum hopes to place it in a “protected campus space where it can be
seen and enjoyed, and preserved, for generations of Sagehens.”