Friday, October 11, 2013

American artist & art historian William Dunlap 1766-1839


I have long been attracted to this quirky 1783 portrait of George Washington. The story of its creation & its creator is almost as much fun as the painting itself. The Office of the United States Senate Curator, where the painting hangs, gives us the story.

1783 George Washington by William Dunlap

William Dunlap’s pastel portrait of George Washington is remarkable as the earliest-known painting by a man better known for his invaluable publication History of the Rise and Progress of the Arts of Design in the United States (1834), the first attempt to chronicle the art of this country. The painting survived (despite damage by fire while it resided in San Francisco) for more than 150 years in the possession of the Van Horne family, its authenticity affirmed by Dunlap himself. In 1838, near the end of his life, Dunlap wrote a statement confirming his authorship of the Senate’s Washington pastel, briefly describing the circumstances of the sitting. Equally conclusive, and more compelling, is the story of the portrait’s origin included in his autobiography–-already published in his Rise and Progress.

Having received meager training in art from the American painter William Williams, Dunlap embarked on his youthful career in 1782 by executing portraits in “crayons” (pastels) of his father, other relatives, and friends. In the autumn of 1783, he visited Rocky Hill, New Jersey, home of John Van Horne. General Washington’s temporary headquarters was nearby while Congress was convening at Princeton College, and Washington was a frequent visitor to the Van Horne home, so Dunlap “was of course introduced to him.”

The young artist had made pastel portraits of Mr. and Mrs. Van Horne, and Washington praised them (“doubtless the mere wish to encourage youth,” according to Dunlap). As a result, Dunlap recalled, John Van Horne “requested him to sit to me and he complied. This was a triumphant moment for a boy of seventeen...but it was one of anxiety, fear and trembling.”

Although family tradition maintains that Dunlap’s portrait of Washington was executed at the Van Horne estate, Dunlap’s very specific, detailed, and charming reminiscence differs: "My visits were now frequent to head quarters. . . .  The soldiers [at headquarters] were New-England yeomen’s sons, none older than twenty; their commander was Captain Howe. . . .  I was astonished when the simple Yankee sentinels, deceived by my fine clothes, saluted me as I passed daily to and fro; but Captain Howe’s praise of my portrait of the general appeared to me as a thing of course, though surely he was as much deceived as his soldiers. I was quite at home in every respect at head quarters . . .[to be] noticed as the young painter, was delicious. The general’s portrait led to the sitting of the lady [Martha Washington]. I made what were thought likenesses, and presented them to Mr. and Mrs. Van Horne, taking copies for myself."

It would be pleasant to report that the portrait was as fine as the praise bestowed on the young man’s work, but, in fact, it is labored and awkward. The Continental army uniform (despite evident effort) is mostly unconvincing, from the odd abstraction of the ruffled shirtfront to the epaulets that look more like strands from an old mop. Still, to his credit, Dunlap manages to render Washington’s prominent and idiosyncratic nose with success, and the eye sockets are smoothly modeled. One spatial problem–-the viewer’s uncertainty that a neck lies behind the neck cloth–-may well be due to the fact that Dunlap had lost the sight of his right eye in a childhood accident. This loss “prevented all further regular schooling,” and Dunlap also believed that “either from nature or the above accident, I did not possess a painter’s eye for colour; but I was now devoted to painting as a profession, and I did not suspect any deficiency.”

It is much more likely that his spatial perception, rather than his color perception, was altered. But there is no need to belabor the shortcomings of a teenager’s portrait of the most famous man of his day. Dunlap was his own severest critic. Early in his artistic career, Dunlap had gone to London to study with American neoclassical painter Benjamin West.

On his return, he established himself as a portrait and miniature painter, while also working as a theatrical manager. He later painted large allegorical and religious pictures, similar to those of Benjamin West. Looking back from old age to his early painting career, Dunlap wrote, “I now intend to show the causes that, at the age of twenty-three, and after a long residence in London, left me ignorant of anatomy, perspective, drawing, and colouring, and returned me home a most incapable painter.”

In addition to painting, Dunlap spent time as a militia paymaster, was one of the founders of the National Academy of Design in New York City, and was involved in civic and cultural affairs throughout his lifetime. He remarked at one time, “The good artist who is not a good man, is a traitor to the arts, and an enemy to society.”  Below are a few of his paintings of women.


William Dunlap (1766-1839) Mrs John Adams Conant Caroline D Holton


William Dunlap (1766-1839) Elizabeth Chandler Putnam


William Dunlap (1766-1839) Hetty Sayer Mrs Moses Judah

Simeon Solomon, English Pre-Raphaelite Painter, 1840-1905


Simeon Solomon (English Pre-Raphaelite Painter, 1840-1905) Night 1890


Simeon Solomon (1840-1905) was born into a prominent Jewish family in England. He was the 8th & last child born to merchant Michael (Meyer) Solomon & artist Catherine (Kate) Levy. Solomon was a younger brother to painters Abraham Solomon (1824–1862) & Rebecca Solomon (1832–1886). His first exhibition was at the Royal Academy in 1858, where he continued to exhibit until 1872. In addition to literary paintings favored by the Pre-Raphaelite school, Solomon's subjects often included scenes from the Hebrew Bible & genre paintings depicting Jewish life. In 1873 his career was cut short, when he was arrested in a public urinal in London & charged with attempting to commit sodomy & was fined. He was was arrested again in 1874 in Paris, after which he was sentenced to spend 3 months in prison. In 1884 he was admitted to the workhouse, where he continued to paint; however, his talent was blighted by alcoholism. Twenty years later in 1905, he died from complications of his alcoholism.


Simeon Solomon (English Pre-Raphaelite Painter, 1840-1905) Dawn


Simeon Solomon (English Pre-Raphaelite Painter, 1840-1905) Marguerite 1866


Simeon Solomon (English Pre-Raphaelite Painter, 1840-1905) Mother of Moses 1860


Simeon Solomon (English Pre-Raphaelite Painter, 1840-1905) Love Dreaming by the Sea 1871


Simeon Solomon (English Pre-Raphaelite Painter, 1840-1905) Beatrice


Simeon Solomon (English Pre-Raphaelite Painter, 1840-1905) Autumn


Simeon Solomon (English Pre-Raphaelite Painter, 1840-1905) Toilette of a Roman Lady 1869


Simeon Solomon (English Pre-Raphaelite Painter, 1840-1905) Priestess Offering Poppies


Simeon Solomon (English Pre-Raphaelite Painter, 1840-1905) Bacchus


Simeon Solomon (English Pre-Raphaelite Painter, 1840-1905) Allegorical Self Portrait 1873Simeon Solomon (English Pre-Raphaelite Painter, 1840-1905) Self Portrait 1860

American Illustrator William Henry Cotton 1880-1958

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William Henry Cotton (American, 1880-1958)


William Cotton trained as a portrait painter at the Cowles Art School in Boston & at the Academie Julien in Paris. He exhibited at the Luxembourg Museum, the Corcoran Art Gallery, & the Art Institute of Chicago, before he became an illustrator. During the Great Depression, Cotton began doing caricatures of Broadway stars, writers, & politicians for Vanity Fair & the New Yorker. He also worked as a muralist, & he founded the National Association of Portrait Painters. He worked for Vanity Fair from 1931 to 1936 as an illustrator. From 1932 on, he was one of the illustrators of the "profile" department of the New Yorker magazine. He painted murals in theatres in New York City at the Capitol, Apollo, Times Square, & Selwyn theaters, as well as in the Hotel Gibson in Cincinnati, Ohio, & in Easton's Beach in Newport, Rhode Island. As a playwright he wrote Andrew Takes A Wife and in 1931, The Bride the Sun Shines On which starred Henry Hull & Dorothy Gish on Broadway.


William Henry Cotton (American, 1880-1958). George Bernard Shaw with Ellen Terry, As in a Looking Glass.


William Henry Cotton (American, 1880-1958) Theodore Dreiser


William Henry Cotton (American, 1880-1958). The Axis Partners


William Henry Cotton (American, 1880-1958) The Virgin Queen


William Henry Cotton (American, 18802 -1958). Sherwood Anderson, Another Pretty Little Play Done to Death.


William Henry Cotton (American, 1880-1958). H. G. Wells Dreams of a Flaming Earth

For you - the joy of grandchildren...


Pierre-Auguste Renoir (French Impressionist Painter, 1841-1919) Portrait of an Infant

American Expatriate Romaine Brooks 1874-1970


Romaine Brooks, (American expatriate artist, 1874-1970) Self  Portrait 1905


Known for her androgynous female portraits in shades of grey, green, black, & white, Romaine Brooks was an American citizen who spent much of her early life in Paris fleeing from the emotional abuse of her insane mother & brother.


Romaine Brooks, (American expatriate artist, 1874-1970) Self Portrait 1912


Romaine Brooks, (American expatriate artist, 1874-1970) Self Portrait at the Sea 1914


She was born Beatrice Romaine Goddard into a wealthy Pennsylvania family, whose father had abandoned the family before she was born. In 1899, she left for for art school, studying at the Scuola Nazionale in Rome & the Academie Colarossi in Paris, primarily because they admitted women.


Romaine Brooks, (American expatriate artist, 1874-1970) Self Portrait 1923


For a while, she made her home on the Isle of Capri, becoming part of its Anglo-American expatriate community & growing gay culture.


Romaine Brooks, (American expatriate artist, 1874-1970) Ida Rubinstein 1917


In 1902, her emotionally abusive & dependent mother & brother both died, and she inherited a large fortune allowing her independence. She lived in London, & when she determined to become an artist, she moved to Paris, becoming part of the Left Bank community.


Romaine Brooks, (American expatriate artist, 1874-1970) Elisabeth de Gramont Duchesse de Clermont Tonerre 1912


In 1910, she had a solo exhibition of her work in the Galeries Durand-Ruel in Paris.


Romaine Brooks, (American expatriate artist, 1874-1970) The Piano


In 1911, she began a 3-year relationship with Ida Rubinstein, a Russian dancer. By WWII, Brooks was living with Natalie Barney, American poet & expatriate, visiting the Paris literary salons.


Romaine Brooks, (American expatriate artist, 1874-1970) The Pink Dress, The Debutante 1910-11


In 1925, she had had major exhibitions of her work in New York, Paris, & London. She painted very little after these shows, becoming increasingly reclusive, devoting herself almost exclusively to creating line drawings & to writing her memoirs. She eventually retreated to her home in southern France, where she lived to age 96.


Romaine Brooks, (American expatriate artist, 1874-1970) Portrait of a Girl 1910


Romaine Brooks, (American expatriate artist, 1874-1970) Dame en Deuil 1910


Romaine Brooks, (American expatriate artist, 1874-1970) Femme Avec Des Fleurs” or “Spring”, 1912


Romaine Brooks, (American expatriate artist, 1874-1970) Madame Errazuris 1908-10


Romaine Brooks, (American expatriate artist, 1874-1970) La Veste en Soie Verte 1907


Romaine Brooks, (American expatriate artist, 1874-1970) Le Bonnet a Brides 1904


 Romaine Brooks, (American expatriate artist, 1874-1970) The Charwoman 1904


Romaine Brooks, (American expatriate artist, 1874-1970) Jean Cocteau à l'époque de la grande rue, 1912


Romaine Brooks, (American expatriate artist, 1874-1970) The Cross of France 1914


Romaine Brooks, (American expatriate artist, 1874-1970) Elsie de Wolfe Jeune Fille Anglaise--Yeux et Rubans Verts 1920


Romaine Brooks, (American expatriate artist, 1874-1970) Peter Young, A Young English Girl, the Artist Gluck 1923-24


Romaine Brooks, (American expatriate artist, 1874-1970) Natalie Barney, L'Amazone, 1920


Romaine Brooks, (American expatriate artist, 1874-1970) Renata Borgatti, Au Piano 1920


Romaine Brooks, (American expatriate artist, 1874-1970) Chasseresse 1920


Romaine Brooks, (American expatriate artist, 1874-1970) Una, Lady Troubridge, 1924


Romaine Brooks, (American expatriate artist, 1874-1970) Emile d'Erlanger 1924


Romaine Brooks, (American expatriate artist, 1874-1970) Muriel Draper 1936


Self Portraits - American Cecilia Beaux 1855-1942


Cecilia Beaux (American artist, 1855-1942) Self Portrait


Cecilia Beaux was born in Philadelphia, where she was raised by maternal relatives; after her mother died following childbirth, & her French father left her behind to return to his native country. She received her art education at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. She later trained with Robert-Fleury, Bouguereau, & Benjamin-Constantat the Academie Julian in Paris. Her works were touched with the techniques & philosphy of Impressionism. She painted mostly figures using her friends and family as models. She was widely aclaimed during her lifetime & became the 1st woman teacher at the Academy of Fine Arts in Pennsylvania. She was also commissioned during the First World War by the U.S. War Portraits Commission in 1919.


Cecilia Beaux (American artist, 1855-1942) Self Portrait 1885


By the turn-of-the-century, many considered her one of the best portrait painters in America, where she won every major art award possible at that time. Beaux became independently wealthy painting the portraits of prominent people. In 1930 she published her autobiography Background with Figures. She wrote, I can say I have a passionate determination to overcome every obstacle. Work is a struggle to conquer something. And I do my own work with a refusal to accept defeat that might almost be called pitiful.


Cecilia Beaux (American artist, 1855-1942) Self Portrait