American portrait painter, Samuel Waldo was born in Windham, Connecticut into a family who recognized & encouraged their son's artistic talent. At age 16, he left home to study art in Hartford with Joseph Steward, a retired minister who painted portraits. Waldo did some sign painting at first & then opened a portrait studio in Hartford. He met John Rutledge of South Carolina, who invited him down to paint commission portraits. He was so successful in the South, that the profits from this sojourn financed 3 years of study in England with expatriates Benjamin West & John Singleton Copley. Under West, he worked with other American artists in England at the time.
By 1809, he had returned to the US & settled in New York, where he encouraged a strong American Academy of Fine Arts. Because of his early connections to the state, he also exhibited with the South Carolina Academy of Fine Arts. Many of his portrait subjects were prominent New Yorkers from the emerging merchant class. From 1820 to 1854, he worked with an apprentice, William Jewett, (c 1792-1874) in a highly successful portrait painting partnership until Jewitt's retirement. Because no portraits survive that can be attributed directly to William Jewett, some believe that Jewett’s contributions to their joint efforts were limited to painting draperies, accessories, & backgrounds. However, Jewett’s portrait style may have so resembled that of Waldo, his teacher, that they may have been able to work on the likeness together without much difference being apparent in the resulting images. Some think that Waldo did the overall design & executed the heads & hands. Many attribute portraits between 1820-1854 to both artists.