Who Was Rose Algrant?

Rose Algrant was born in Constantinople (now Istanbul) at the turn of the last century. Educated in French convent schools, she occasionally snuck out to play tennis — a sport she played enthusiastically her entire life.

She married Leon Algrant, who was born in Venice of Turkish parents. He was working for the Harriman oil interests in Russia where the newlyweds went to live. She returned to Turkey for the birth of their son, Roland. A few years later, Leon went to work for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, a job which eventually took him to Rome.

The family emigrated to New York City in 1940. In 1942, when Rose separated from her husband, Rose moved to Cornwall to be close to her son, who was boarding at Rumsey Hall School. Harriet Clark rented her a house on Great Hill Road which had neither electricity nor running water, a far cry from the homes she occupied in Europe. She eventually settled on Cream Hill Road, where a large group of friends gathered regularly for dinner, including James Thurber, and many of the artists who would later be represented in her first show.

During the war there was a temporary opening for  a French teacher at Rumsey Hall in Cornwall, and she stayed for several decades. She became a U.S. citizen, and raised Great Pyrenees dogs, often drawn by Thurber and Marc Simont.

She sometimes posed for her artist friends, and suggested they mount an exhibit. In 1959, the first show with nine artists (Nancy S. Day, Ruth Gannett, Amy and Armin Landeck, Anne Spencer Pratt, Genevieve and Marc Simont, Pilar Sureda, and Arlington Yutzler) took place in West Cornwall and was a rousing success.

Her death in 1992 did not end the legacy, as Rose’s friends, new and old, joined forces to continue “The Friends of Rose Algrant” art show. Bee Simont, in particular, has been the force that kept it going all these years, and she was honored several years ago in a ceremony to mark the 50th year of the show.