Robert S. Brookings painting comes ‘home’ to WUSTL

Painting, donated by Brookings’ relatives, now hangs in Brookings Hall

Brookings painting
Portrait of Robert S. Brookings by Richard E. Miller (1905).

Take a walk on the second floor of North Brookings Hall and look through the glass windows of the Bridge Conference Room, and you’ll see a different take on a familiar face.

A painting of Robert S. Brookings, president of WUSTL’s Board of Trustees from 1895-1928, arrived in September and now hangs on the west-facing wall of the conference room, next to the Chancellor’s Office.

The portrait, which was painted in 1905 by noted American Impressionist artist Richard E. Miller, replaced another painting of Robert S. Brookings in the Bridge Conference Room.

The Miller painting was donated by Charles Wallace (BSBA, ’54), Mary Wallace de Compienge (BFA, ’55) and John Wallace (MBA, ’62), the grandchildren of Harry Brookings Wallace. Harry Brookings Wallace was Robert S. Brookings’ nephew and chairman of the WUSTL Board of Trustees from 1942-1951 and acting WUSTL chancellor from 1944-45.

The painting had been in the Wallace family for three generations. Until it was given to WUSTL, the painting most recently hung in Charles Wallace’s dining room, along with a portrait of Mary Elizabeth Carter, Brookings’ mother.

The Wallaces — Charles, Mary and John — decided together to donate the painting to Washington University because, Charles says, “it belongs here.”

Washington University is the painting’s “real home,” Mary says.

“Brookings had so much to do with the university’s early days,” says John, a member of the WUSTL Board of Trustees for four terms, beginning in 1989, and now an emeritus trustee. “The logical thing was for it to find its way back.”

The Miller painting, oil on canvas, shows the bearded Brookings seated, holding a cane while wearing a black jacket, red tie and brown boots.

Brookings painting with Wallaces

Joe Angeles

From left: Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton talks with Charles Wallace, Mary Wallace de Compienge and John Wallace, the grandchildren of the nephew of Robert S. Brookings. The Wallaces donated the painting of Brookings to Washington University.

The Brookings portrait previously located in the room was painted by Anders Leonard Zorn in 1904 and now is housed in the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum collections.

Brookings — civic leader, educational pioneer and philanthropist — played a pivotal role in the development of what now is WUSTL’s Danforth Campus and the transformation of the School of Medicine into one of the United States’ premier medical schools.

He also founded the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C., which now enjoys a renewed academic partnership with WUSTL.

The university’s Brookings Hall is named in his honor. The Alumni House is his former residence, and the South 40 area of campus was donated by Brookings to the university.

The portrait’s painter, Miller, was a native St. Louisan born in 1875. Miller studied art at Washington University from 1893-97 and began his artistic career as an artist-reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. He moved to Paris in 1898 to study, teach and paint, eventually holding classes at Giverny, Claude Monet’s home outside of Paris. He moved back to the United States during World War I and eventually settled in Provincetown, Mass.

Miller painted many other prominent St. Louisans, including David R. Francis, former governor of Missouri and president of the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition (St. Louis World’s Fair); Henry Shaw, founder of the Missouri Botanical Garden; and John F. Queeny, founder of Monsanto Co. He also painted murals in the Missouri State Capitol.

For more information about Miller, visit