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Henry Oothout Milliken (1884-1945) was born in Stamford, Connecticut. He was a member of the class of 1905 at Princeton University and attended the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris. He became an architect in New York City, specializing on both town and country houses. He formed the firm of Milliken and Bevin in 1927 with Newton P. Bevin (1895-1976), another Princeton graduate with an architectural degree from University of Pennsylvania. In 1925 Milliken married Harriet Paige Greene in Cherry Valley, New York. His wife was a descendant of the Campbell family of Cherry Valley, and her uncle, Douglas Campbell, owned the family home, Auchinbreck, on land that had been in the Campbell family since the 1740s. The Greene family often spent summers there. As the Clarkes of Hyde Hall and the Campbells of Cherry Valley had been friends for many generations, Milliken would have visited and been familiar with Hyde Hall and it was probably during one of the summer visits in 1932 that Milliken made his paintings of Hyde Hall.
As a graduate of the Ecole des Beaux Arts, Milliken must have admired and understood the distinctive architecture of Hyde Hall, particularly the austere classicism of the Great House, built between 1828 and 1833. Although a professional architect, he was also a painter with ability and talent, particularly evident in his atmospheric play of light and shade in the Hyde Hall paintings. The exterior view of Hyde Hall is focused on the Doric columns of the portico, while the three interior scenes show the architectural details from the plaster cornices to the woodwork and the historic family furnishings. Views of interiors began to appear in the 17 th century in the works of such artists as Vermeer or Terborch, but these were backdrops to the human drama of the figures. In the late 18 th and 19 th centuries a specialized genre of interiors scenes, some without people, began to appear. These include the interiors of British royal residences by William Henry Pyne (1769-1843) in publications between 1816 and 1819 and a host of amateur painters such as Mary Ellen Best (1809-1891), who recorded the interiors of the homes of her family and other members of the English gentry. Milliken’s paintings of Hyde Hall come from a long tradition, but are most reminiscent in subject, size and technique to the work of Walter Gay (1856-1937), an American artist who moved to France in 1876. From the 1890s until his death Gay made small studies of unpeopled, antique-filled interiors of French chateaus and historic private houses both in France and America. It is highly likely that Milliken was aware of Gay’s interior scenes as the artist was well known in French artistic circles and, after an exhibition in 1913, to American audiences.