American 18th-19th Century Portraiture
Artists Featured in This Section
|Francis Alexander||John White Alexander|
|Charles Loring Elliott||Attributed to George Peter Alexander Healy|
|Gilbert Stuart||Thomas Sully|
Francis AlexanderAmerican, 1800-1880
Portrait of Mary Ann Duff, ca. 1825
Oil on canvas
30 1/4 x 24 in.
Gift of Dr. and Mrs. DeWitt Allen Green, 1992.03
Francis Alexander was only twenty-five when he painted Mary Ann Duff. At the peak of her career, Duff was considered as fine a tragic actress as the earlier renowned English actress Sarah Siddons (immortalized as the "Tragic Muse" by Sir Joshua Reynolds in 1783). Though born in England and first appearing on stage as a dancer in Ireland, Duff was thirty and living in New York when this painting was completed. Largely forgotten now, it has been argued that Duff should rightly be considered the first First Lady of the American Stage, having received her theatrical training solely in America. This painting predates Alexander's travels in Europe, where he would study the great monuments of art and refine his technique.
Though produced early in his career in an almost naïf style, Alexander’s likeness captures the vivacious nature of the actress as she looks out of the canvas with sparkling eyes and rosy cheeks. Great care has been taken in rendering the texture and patterning of the drapery that covers her chair and falls over and around her arm. Mary Ann Duff would have been conscious of her rising status on the American stage. A portrait such as this might have been commissioned in a self-conscious attempt at mimicking the habits of respectable American society. Remembering that actors in the nineteenth century were not accorded the high social status in America that they enjoy today, Miss Duff would have been eager to present herself as a reputable lady of society. Her apparel raises more questions than it answers. She appears to be wearing a scholar's cap, and the high, starched, lace collar is not in keeping with contemporaneous fashions. It is possible that she has chosen to be portrayed in the costume of a favorite character. Unfortunately, there is little in the way of records for this important personage of American theatrical history.
John White AlexanderAmerican, 1856-1915
Portrait of Annie Russell, ca. 1900
Oil on canvas
72 x 44 1/2 in.
Gift of John Russell Carty (1892–1949), nephew of Annie Russell, 1938.143
Anyone familiar with Rollins College will know that Annie Russell is honored with a theatre bearing her name. Miss Russell retired to Winter Park in 1930 after a long and distinguished career on the stage. In 1932 the Annie Russell Theatre was given to Rollins College by Mary Louise Bok in honor of her close friend. Annie Russell directed many plays on campus and passed her wisdom on to numerous students until her death in 1936. The portraitist responsible for Portrait of Annie Russell, John White Alexander, was a well-known American artist. In 1877, at the age of twenty, Alexander traveled to Europe and studied with Frank Duveneck (1848-1919) in Munich. John White Alexander agreed with those artists of the late nineteenth century who advocated, "art for art's sake." When he returned to America in 1881, he settled in New York where he found support for his style. He painted a number of famous people; his portrait of Walt Whitman now hangs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Alexander preferred to use a coarsely woven canvas that created a matte effect giving tonal unity to the composition. This type of canvas is now known as toile Alexander. Annie Russell is portrayed here as Lady Vavir, a character in the "fairy play" Broken Hearts, written by Sir Arthur Sullivan of Gilbert & Sullivan renown. Miss Russell became famous for her portrayal of ingénue roles. She played so many ingénues she came to call them "Annie-genues." Broken Hearts premiered in New York in 1885 when Annie Russell would have been 21. Perhaps her greatest theatrical achievement was originating the title role of Barbara Undershaft in the London production of George Bernard Shaw's Major Barbara. Though she was not the playwright's first choice, Shaw remarked that Russell played the role, "excellently in a really touching intimate way with sincere feeling and sympathy."
Charles ElliottAmerican, 1812-1868
Loring Portrait of the Reverend Robert Furman, ca. 1850-1870
Oil on canvas
34 1/8 x 27 1/8 in.
Bequest of the estate of John Martin, 1956.19.01
The Reverend Robert Furman was a Protestant minister and was associated with the abolitionist movement. He resided in Syracuse, New York, and this fine portrait has been attributed to Charles Loring Elliott, who was also from Syracuse. Elliot left Syracuse to live in New York City in order to become a respected artist around 1830, only to return to Syracuse six months later. Undeterred, he continued working as a portraitist and by 1845 had been declared the best American portraitist since Gilbert Stuart. It was estimated in 1867 that he had painted over seven hundred portraits. This picture came to Rollins College from the estate of Dr. John Martin, whose wife, Prestonia Mann Martin, was the granddaughter of the Furmans. Mrs. Martin carried on her family's forward-thinking ways. She was involved in the American Fabian Society, a socialist group modeled on the British Fabian Society, which argued that socialism should be advanced through gradual reformist measures rather than by revolutionary means. For a time, she was involved in the founding of a utopian community near North Elba, New York. She also authored a book, Prohibiting Poverty (1933), in which she argued that the necessary toils of life should be turned over to a conscript army made up of 18-26 year olds. After their own period of service, the people of this society were free to live secure in the knowledge that their needs would be met by the conscripts.
Charles Loring ElliottAmerican, 1812-1868
Portrait of Melinda Wilkens Furman, ca. 1845
Oil on canvas
34 1/4 x 27 1/4 in.
Bequest of the estate of John Martin, 1956.19.02
This likeness of Melinda Wilkins Furman is an excellent example of mid-nineteenth-century American portraiture. The austerity of the setting befits the wife of a Protestant minister. The focus of the portrait is the sitter’s finely painted face. She looks out with kind, meek eyes. Faint lines of experience are seen on her forehead and around her mouth. Her dress is of very good quality without being ostentatious. Her husband, the Reverend Robert Furman, was associated with the abolitionist movement. The Furmans resided in Syracuse, New York, and this fine portrait has been attributed to Charles Loring Elliott, who was also from Syracuse. Elliot left Syracuse to live in New York City in order to become a respected artist around 1830, only to return to Syracuse six months later. Undeterred, he continued working as a portraitist and by 1845 had been declared the best American portraitist since Gilbert Stuart. It was estimated in 1867 that he had painted over seven hundred portraits. This picture came to Rollins College from the estate of Dr. John Martin, whose wife, Prestonia Mann Martin, was the granddaughter of the Furmans. Mrs. Martin carried on her family's forward-thinking ways. She was involved in the American Fabian Society, a socialist group modeled on the British Fabian Society, which argued that socialism should be advanced through gradual reformist measures rather than by revolutionary means. For a time, she was involved in the founding of a utopian community near North Elba, New York. She also authored a book, Prohibiting Poverty (1933), in which she argued that the necessary toils of life should be turned over to a conscript army made up of 18-26 year olds. After their own period of service, the people of this society were free to live secure in the knowledge that their needs would be met by the conscripts.
Attributed to George Peter Alexander HealyAmerican, 1813-1894
Portrait of the Reverend Wyllys Warner, ca. 1842-1844
Oil on panel
31 x 24 3/4 in.
Gift of James Gamble Rogers II, 1982.17.01
Originally this portrait was thought to have been painted by the American painter George Peter Alexander Healy (1813-1894). This belief was based on the family tradition of the original owners. However, this attribution has been questioned by some scholars who feel that Healy would have been too young at the time to have painted such a fine portrait. Experts from the Vose Gallery in Boston and the National Portrait Gallery in Washington have suggested that the painting may have been done by the portraitists Chester Harding (1792-1866) or Samuel Waldo (1783-1861). The date of the painting is also difficult to determine with certainty. If the painting was completed as a companion to the portrait of the Reverend Warner's second wife, Elizabeth Warner, née Hart (also in the Cornell's collection), the date of c. 1840s would be appropriate. However, the Reverend Warner was first married to Elizabeth Hazard (d.1831) in 1829. It has been suggested that the Reverend Warner's attire is more in keeping with the fashions of the 1820s or 1830s, and it would have been common to have a portrait commissioned to celebrate a marriage. While it may seem odd that the Reverend Warner is depicted holding a bookkeeping ledger rather than a Bible, this attribute is in keeping with his position. A graduate of Yale Theological Seminary, Warner was made Treasurer of the college in 1832. The donor of this painting (and its companion piece), James Gamble Rogers II, was the great-grandson of the Reverend and Mrs. Warner. James Gamble Rogers II, a Winter Park architect, designed many of the buildings on the Rollins College campus including the Thomas Phillips Johnson Student Resource Center, Olin Library, McKean Hall, and Elizabeth Hall.
Gilbert StuartAmerican, 1755-1828
Portrait of Sir William Conyngham, ca. 1795
Oil on canvas
36 x 28 in.
Gift of Mary Manning Cleveland and Robert Gran Cleveland '32, 2004.06
Though the subject of this likeness is Irish, not American, the artist responsible for this work, Gilbert Stuart, is among the best of American portraitists and is known especially for his depictions of George Washington. Born in Rhode Islandhe traveled to London in 1775 to study with Benjamin West (1738-1820). While there, Stuart was also influenced by the great English painters Thomas Gainsborough and Joshua Reynolds. In 1789 after establishing his reputation in London, he moved to Ireland where this portrait was completed. Conyngham was a noted Irish parliamentarian, Teller of the Exchequer, and an antiquarian. After the death of his uncle, the first Earl Conyngham, the Earl's estate was divided equally among his nephews Francis (who became the new Earl Conyngham) and William. Having a keen interest in architecture, William employed the architect James Wyatt for a new addition to the family seat, Slane Castle. Wyatt was to become a pioneer in the "Gothic Revival" style. Wyatt began an extensive rebuilding of the castle in 1785 following the suggestions of James Gandon, another architect of renown. The Cornell's portrait is one of four copies--or replicas--of Stuart's work. Subjects would often ask for replicas of a portrait, if they found it favorable, so that it might be sent to relatives or placed in multiple residences. Behind Conyngham are two books. The first is a copy of Grose's Antiquities of Ireland; this is fitting as Conyngham himself was a noted antiquarian and had lectured before the Royal Irish Academy on the theatre at Saguntum (near Valencia). Conyngham is mentioned in the preface to the first volume. This text did not appear until 1795, the year before Conyngham's death, dating this portrait to 1795-1796. The second volume found in this portrait is a copy of Observations on Man, His Frame, His Duty, and His Expectations written by David Hartley and published in 1749. Hartley's text combines themes of philosophy, physiology, and religion. Joseph Priestly, the discoverer of oxygen, felt Hartley's work ushered in a new era of science. The inclusion of these volumes in Stuart's painting attest to the varied interests of the learned William Burton Conyngham.
Thomas SullyAmerican, 1783-1872
Portrait of Lieutenant William Henry Korn, ca. 1841
Oil on canvas
29 x 45 1/2 in.
Gift of Dr. William Henry Fox, 1951.23
William Henry Korn was born into a prominent Philadelphia merchant family in 1814. He was a graduate of West Point and fought in the Seminole War in Florida, 1839-1840. He resigned from the military in March of 1840 after a brief career and returned to Philadelphia to work in the family business. This portrait was painted by the pre-eminent Philadelphia portraitist Thomas Sully, a close friend of Korn's father. Sully was born in England but had come to Charleston, South Carolina, at an early age with his parents. He first studied art with his older brother, Lawrence, who was a miniaturist. Sully then benefited from the instruction of several superb painters. In 1807 he briefly studied with Gilbert Stuart in Boston; then in 1809 he traveled to London to study with Benjamin West and Sir Thomas Lawrence. From Lawrence he learned to paint in the "grand style" of Sir Joshua Reynolds. When he returned to America in 1810, Sully was proclaimed the "American Lawrence." This portrait, painted in 1841, was completed during the height of Sully's powers. Lt. Korn looks intently past the viewer off into the distance. He has just resigned from the military and is symbolically and literally looking toward a prosperous career in business. Sully is able to capture the forcefulness of the young man's personality while retaining the casual elegance of youth. The gentle sweep of the hair is echoed in the loose treatment of his cravat. The skin has the blush of vigor. Yet, it is sadly ironic that this portrait illustrating the promise of a long and successful life is completed only a year before Korn's premature death at the age of twenty-eight.