John S. Blunt was was born in the Portsmouth, New Hampshire area. Many of John S. Blunt's family were seafaring people. His father was a ship captain, as were other members of his family. Blunt did come to paint Atlantic maritime scenes, but they were not his most popular works. It is reported, that he trained as a young man at the Boston workshop of John Ritto Penniman (American craftsman & artist, 1782-1841), learning the craft of painting signs, fire buckets, militia standards, & other forms of ornamental painting. In 1819, Blunt traveled with portrait artist William P. Codman up the Merrimack River as far as Concord, NH, seeking commissions for portraits, landscapes, & fancy paintings.
For over a century, the work Blunt did was not attributed to him. He was coined the “Borden Limner” after portraits in New Bedford, MA, of Captain Borden & his wife. The Borden Limner was later identified as John S Blunt using the artist’s ledgers & comparing entries to known portraits.
Primarily Blount painted portraits of fashionably dressed & elegantly coifed ladies with elaborate period hairdos. Some wear stylish lace caps or gold & tortoiseshell combs. Most of his female sitters wear brooches, necklaces, earrings, & rings. Through his ads, which appeared between 1819-1828 in the New Hampshire Patriot & New Hampshire Gazette, he sought commissions for portraits; advertised an exhibition of his paintings; & sought young lady “scholars” for his drawing & painting school. His surviving detailed ledger indicates that he was frequently hired by Masonic groups, for whom he made aprons, sashes, & military standards.
Blunt married Esther Peake Colby (1801-1872) in Boston in 1821; and in 1825, he opened an art instruction school in Portsmouth. John S. Blunt moved to Boston in 1831, opening a studio at 54 Cornhill, while living on Castle Street. He would only live in Boston 3 years.
Blunt advertised that he could paint oil portraits on canvas; work on glass, paint signs; do ornamental enameling, gilding, & bronzing; and make military standards. Blunt seemed most comfortable using oils on small canvases. Occasionally, he also painted on wood panels. As a portrait painter, he obviously believed in black, red, & the puffiest of sleeves.
John S. Blunt died aboard the ship Ohio on a voyage from New Orleans to Boston in 1835, at the age of 37.