Gilbert Stuart


Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Captain Wiliam Locker is up for auction, the claim is that it is an original copy by Stuart of his own original. He did make copies....

Captain William Locker was active in the British naval service beginning in 1746, served with distinction in the 1860s, married an Admiral's daughter, and was promoted to captain in 1768.  He took command of different frigates and during this period one of his lieutenants was the nineteen year old Horatio Nelson.  Locker's teachings had a lasting effect on Nelson.
Locker continued to serve England during times of conflict with France and Spain. In 1793 he was appointed lieutenant-governor of Greenwich Hospital.

From Lawrence Park:
London c 1785, Canvas 34 x 30 inches.  Half length, turned three quarters to the left, with his  brown eyes directed to the  spectator.  His sparse white hair is tied in a queue bow, and he wears a naval uniform coat of dark blue  with white facings and gold braid and buttons, and a white stock.  The plain  background is dark brown.

National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London, Greenwich Hospital Collection
This one is considered and known as an original Gilbert Stuart.


Now up for auction at "Freeman's" on April 25 is, a stated original Stuart COPY of this portrait by the master, for 25,000. to 35,000. USD : seen just below.
Notes on this portrait indicate that according to tradition, Stuart painted this copy of his portrait of Captain Locker at the request of Locker's daughter.  Stuart's original work of 1785 is in the collection of the Maritime Art Museum, Greenwich, as seen above.  Lawrence Park does not mention a copy of this painting by Gilbert Stuart; he would have mentioned an original Stuart copy if there was one...
The provenance states:
"From the family collection of a Philadelphia Gentleman."
The copy is too good for me to determine whether it is an original Stuart or not.  We know he made copies of his Washington portrait.  Unfortunately he never signed his portraits.

Wait there is ANOTHER copy! This one is at the Nelson Society.  Here the portrait is definitely a la Stuart, but the clouds are again different and the painting is not attributed to Stuart.
Captain William Locker was famous in his time.  These portraits are all excellent in providing us a likeness of the captain.

The portrait below is interesting as it shows Cap Locker at an older age.  The painter is not known.

From my favorite (living) portrait painter.... her comments on this particular post I agree with completely.  
Jeanne wrote "I just came across your April 18 blog post.  What a magnificent painting that first one is.  Absolutely wonderful.  It reminds me of your own Stuart in its strength.  The other two are a mystery. They are Stuart-like yet much weaker in execution.  What seems odd to me is that the faces are so exactly alike that the second and third almost could be traced from the original, yet the coloring is very different -- it  makes the sitter look much older.  The backgrounds are not typical for him either, I don't think.  Darn that man for never signing anything."


Sunday, December 31, 2017

Attributed Gilbert Stuart, 1756-1828. Portrait of a seated lady.

This portrait, attributed to Gilbert Stuart, was sold at auction (William Bunch Auctions) this month.  The estimated price was $4000.00 to $6000.00.  It only sold for $1300.00.  Can a genuine Stuart sell for such a minimal price?  Is it genuine?  The description for the portrait also includes: "Signed in pencil along with pencil sketch on back." Highly unusual, and suspect.
The provenance, "from the estate of former PA William W. Scranton." is also sketchy. My opinion on the authenticity of the portrait all things considered?
It has the style of a Stuart and is a beautiful portrait, but does not have the exquisite Stuart flair. Stuart exclaimed that his signature was the entire portrait itself.... hmmmm.  I do not think it is genuine.
But I could be wrong!

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Is Janet's portrait of Washington by GS? portraits of George Washington (and Meeker) &.... When Stuart was Really Interested in a male face...

See post previous to this, for backgound on Janet's portrait of President George Washington.
After leaving America to make a name for himself in London and Dublin (1775-1793), Stuart returned and for the rest of his life painted in New York, Philadelphia, Washington DC, spending his last days in Boston. He left NY for Philadelphia with the express intent to paint George Washington in person.  Philadelphia, when he arrived in 1794, was the temporary capital of the US from 1790 to 1800.  Besides his by now well established reputation as a fine portrait painter, through familial contacts he was well placed to move among the elite economic and political circles.  A letter of introduction to the President from John Jay (first Chief Justice of the United States, a Founding Father) led to an invitation to visit.
Stuart painted only three portraits with live sittings, painting afterwards at least 100 replications of these works.  Most are based on the Athenaeum portrait, called The Athenaeum.  This unfinished work (which also includes wife Martha in a separate portrait) is one of Stuart's most celebrated portraits, although unfinished.
Stuart painted Washington in 1795 when the Pres. was 63.
Stuart asked permission to keep The Athenaeum to fulfill commissions for replicas (providing a steady income--and not requiring the President to sit for any commissioned portraits, which the President did not like to do.) The President saw the advantage for Stuart in keeping the original and thought it a great idea for the artist to keep it.
In the post just previous to this one, Janet asked about whether her portrait of George Washington might be a Gilbert Stuart.  So now you, the reader, knows that the majority of portraits of GW painted by Stuart were based on The Athenaeum.
Thus, an answer to this question would be to present portraits here, and let you decide. Some easy things to look for: The age of Janet's portrait seems to be within the realm of possibility, as does the background of reddish brown curtain sweeping over the shoulder.  The detail photo depicting the neckcloth appears to distort the chin somewhat, that should be discounted (ie a bad photo).  The costume is correct; but does the neckcloth itself show the bright swerving dashes of alternating dark and light characteristic to GS's treatment of the jabot ( ruffle on the front of the shirt.)?  A common GS detail is a light spray of white on the shoulder of the jacket (for his earlier male portraits when men wore their hair in this style) indicating some of the powder which has floated off the hair.  The proportionality of the facial features in Janet's portrait seems to be correct. All in all her portrait captures the likeness of Washington and is a fine portrait.  But.......IS the portrait by the MASTER?                                                              

                                     Below Samuel Meeker's portrait from the Philadelphia period
"But when he was really interested in a male face, he painted with that compound of insight, sympathy, and scientific detachment which is the ideal of modern biographers."  On Desperate Seas by James Thomas Flexner  ---A BIOGRAPHY of Gilbert Stuart
One might ask, was Stuart interested in the person of Samuel Meeker?  Can you see Meeker's personality? Does the portrait somehow reflect a calm personality, wisdom, kindness?  
How does the master acheive that?!                                         
     the unfinished Athenaeum, kept by the artist until his death to make additional GW portraits

The Gibbs-Channing-Avery Portrait at the MET

Janet's unsigned George Washington portrait.

  • Skin hues are not subtle and lack the renowned inner vibrancy, flesh tints and transition areas are rough without use of the creamy, subtle light dark shading, & masterful coloring 
  • the hair/jabot without characteristic dashes of brilliant structure, shoulders seem disproportionately thin, the portrait lacks the typical Stuart "photographic likeness", enabling the viewer to study the sitter's personality
  • lips/chin lack firm realism, as does the shadowing of the beard (see Meeker)   
  • As I wrote Janet, the portrait is decisively NOT a Stuart.   

Here is another example of a portrait that may or may have been done by Stuart.
With comments from the expert

for Stuart's pigments and paint application click here

"George Washington: The Wonder of the Age" by John Rhodehamel 
"This sympathetic, though not uncritical, account of the first president's journey from minor Tidewater gentry to mythic statesman is crisply written, admirably concise and never superficial.  As a brief acount of Washington's life, it is unlikely to be surpassed for many years." review by F. Bordewich

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Is this portrait of George Washington by Gilbert Stuart??

Our master is known for his portraits of George Washington; thanks to this we can have a vivid image of what our most famous American, our Founding Father, looked like.  Of course you all know that Washington had a set of false teeth after suffering from bad dental health for years, so this had the effect of molding the shape of his lips...Note that he is never depicted smiling.  Washington was inaugurated for his first term as President in 1789.
Being President, certainly Washington would be the subject of many portraits of the day.  And our Gibby did not sign his works.  Can it be easily discerned which are true Stuart portraits?  Can we abide by Stuart's "stated" signature, that the portrait in its entirety is his signature?

Janet has sent me photos of a portrait along with a note containing a bit of background:
"My husband and I own a very early oil painting of George Washington.  We have owned it for many many years.  My husband purchased it from an art dealer in Massachusetts I am guessing 20-30 years ago.  He is almost 85 so not exactly sure.  We are not familiar with art other than a few that we have owned for our own enjoyment.  If I send you a picture of it can you give me any information about it? It is not signed.  I recently tried to find out about early oil paintings by Gilbert Stuart.  It would be a miracle if it were by him.  It is wonderful and we do love it! Please let me know if you are willing to take a look at it....I read you told a man to send you a picture to verify IF it could be by Gilbert Stuart...."

the unsigned portrait in its frame, detail of the face, and detail of the neckcloth

Here is another George Washington, is it by Gilbert Stuart? for a post on this Click on this link:
If there are other portraits of G.W., please send them (photos) to me bethjena at gmail

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Fine copies of Stuart are also floating about; Mrs Luke White and her Son, Lawrence Park thought the copy he was looking at was original

Gilbert was in Dublin for nearly six years (1787-93).  As a reminder he had left America to find his fortune in London (and escape the War of Independence) arriving in 1775 nearly destitute and without friends or patrons.  {It is possible that Stuart had thought he had found a rich patron in Dublin, the Duke of Rutland, but the Duke died about a month after Stuart's arrival.}  It is thought that Luke White was among his first sitters in Dublin.  Elizabeth was his first wife, she bore him seven children.

On Oct 5 the Stuart portrait of Mrs Luke White and her son was auctioned at the Doyle Auction House of New York.  
A portrait Of Mrs. White is listed in Lawrence Park; #903

*************from the Park Volume

Elizabeth de la Maziere, of Dublin, Ireland.  In 1781 she married Luke White.  According to family tradition, the boy in this double-portrait is her fourth and youngest son, Henry (1798-1873) who was created Baron Annaly in 1863, in which case the picture was painted later than 1790, but it is imossible to establish this with certainty, as a living descendent expresses the opinion that the child might be her second son, Samuel.

Dublin, c.1790. Shown at half-length, Mrs. White is seated, turned half-way to the right, with her hazel eyes directed at the spectator. She has a wealth of hair, powdered gray, and she is dressed in a white dress, with a pale yellow silk shawl over her shoulders and arms.  A black velvet ribbon encircles her neck.  On her lap she holds her small boy, who has long, blond har and whose gray eyes are directed at the spectator.  He presses his head to his mother's cheek, is turned half-way to the left, and puts his left hand on his mother's shoulder.  He is dressed in a white dress with large ruffled collar and a pink sash.  The background shows trees, sketched in brown, to the left and above the figures, and a distant landscape of hills and sky in blue and yellowish-pink at the right.
     This double-portrait has the same history as the companion picture of Luke White by Stuart.  It is now owned by Henry Reinhardt & Son, NY.
The present Lord Annaly owns a copy of this picture, and another copy was sold at the auction of Lord Massy's belongings in 1916 to a furniture dealer.  Who painted these copies is unknown.

This is the portrait of Mrs.White auctioned on Oct 5 

Thus, Lawrence Park indicates that there exists in fact 3 portraits of Mrs. Luke and her son (note that this one does not have the landscape touches mentioned by Park).  Lawrence clearly thought that the one he was looking at was the original.... but the auction house declares that the portrait it auctioned on Oct 5, was a copy, BY STUART, of the original Stuart! (thus an original Stuart)
This is getting confusing~

From Doyle Auction House:
By descent in the White family in Ireland
Scott & Fowles, NY, acquired from the above, 1920
Ehrich Galleries, NY, 1930
Mrs. James B. Higgin, NY, acquired from the above
Wildenstein and Newhouse Gallery, NY, by 1932
Leroy Ireland, acquired at auction, c 1940
Ernest Closuit, Fort Worth, TX, acquired from the above, 1944
Southern Methodist University, Dallas, TX, acquired from the above, 1959
Morton Kornreich, Harrison, NY, c 1980

A label on the back of the auctioned portrait describes the work and identifies Wildenstein/Newhouse as part of the provenance, and indicates that the other related portrait is at the Toledo Museum of Art.

A portrait described by Lawrence Park (no.903) as the original from which Stuart painted the present work, presently in the permanent collection of the Toledo Museum of Art, is now believed to be a copy.  It appears that the location of the original double portrait is unknown.


Well, to my eye, the portrait that was auctioned, looks to be a Stuart original.  But, where is the ...original original...? The #903 portrait from Park (see below) shows hands that are perfect; Stuart did not particularly like doing hands....But, if it is not a Stuart, it is a beautiful, magnificent copy, at least the black and white image.  And Park was convinced apparently that it was original.

The person who would know the authenticity of these portraits would be Carrie Barratt, who has the most up-to-date accounting of all Stuart portraits.  But looks to me like Doyle House auctioned a genuine Stuart. A reputable auction house would give the most latest accurate information on a portrait. Lawrence Park shows an unfinished portrait of these two, #904, which must be considered the original, then Stuart used this unfinished portrait to complete the final painting.  Apparently this unfinished portrait has not been located.


#903 Mrs. Like White and her Son in the Lawrence Park Volumes (my photograph)
This portrait is "AFTER" Stuart
but ....Park thought it was original.

The Stuart portrait of Mrs White was sold for $43,750.00.   The estimate was $20,000.- $40,000.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Regarding authenticity, the difference between "by" and "after" Gilbert Stuart when considering a purchase of a Stuart portrait

Those of you thinking of investing in a masterpiece by Gilbert Stuart, perhaps by auction, pay close attention to the wording which describes the portrait.  Also the price range is an indication of authenticity.  Authenticity of Stuart portraits is always an issue of importance to consider, as he never signed his portraits.  He considered the entire portrait as his signature.

If the wording includes "after", this indicates that the portrait is a copy of the Stuart style.

Gilbert Stuart was the rage at the time he was engaging in his art, thus his style of portrait painting became popular (unless of course the sitters wished to have a more flattering image!). People also respected the Stuart style because the artist was actually earning money from his artwork...a novelty indeed.

Here is an example of a fine portrait. 
This is James Barton, founder of Milford, PA's Cold Spring Water Company
Starting price at auction for this painting is $2000.00
Although it has many seemingly authentic Stuart touches, do you think it is "by" or "after"?

Naturally the most important aspect to consider when viewing a portrait... when the question of authenticity comes up.  Does the portrait jump off the canvas?  Is it so beautifully realistic that it looks like a photograph? So true-to-life that you feel you could cup his face in your hands, begin to talk to him?

This portrait is "after" Stuart.


Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Stuart's Pigments and Paint Application continued (2nd part)

American Painters on Technique: the Colonial Period to 1860, "Gilbert Stuart: the First American Old Master": Mayer, Lance, and Gay Myers; Los Angeles, J Paul Getty Museum, 2011

Stuart also had opinions about Titian and Rubens that may have influenced his own method of applying paint.  In sharp contrast to painters who loved the mellowness and deep tone of Titian's paintings, Stuart believed that "Titian's works were not by any means so well blended when they left the esel...Rubens...must have discovered more tinting, or separate tints, or distinctiness, than others did, and that, as time mellowed and incorporated the tints, he (Rubens) resolved not only to keep his colours still more distinct against the ravages of time, but to follow his own impetuous disposition with spirited touches." [Dickinson "Remarks" 2.]

One odditity in the layout of Stuart's palette, as reported in three different accounts,[Jouette 1816] is that the color blue was placed farthest to the right, next to the thumbhole.  This position of honor (nearest to the hand that holds the paintbrush) was traditionally given to the white pigment and is shown that way in most other palettes of all periods.  It is tempting to think that Stuart had a special reason for placing his blue in this prominent position--he loved to commingle bluish strokes with his flesh to imitate the effect of blue veins under the skin.  But this unusual arrangement is contradicted by five other accounts that have him placing the blue more conventionally on the other (left) side of the palette,[Dunlap 1834] so it is possible that Stuart sometimes arranged his palette this way, and sometimes not.

Stuart's principal blue pigment (and in some accounts the only one) was Antwerp blue.  Unfortunately, this is an imprecise term, and we cannot say exactly what "Antwerp blue" meant in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.  By the middle of the nineteenth century, the term had come to mean a weaker variety of Prussian blue, but modern authorities point out that in earlier times colormen may have also sold completely different copper-based pigments--or even mixtures of pigments--under the name Antwerp blue.[Harley 1982] During Stuart's lifetime, the finest and most permanent blue color was known to be ultramarine, but it was extremely expensive (the much cheaper artificial ultramarine becoming available only after the artist's death in 1828). The expense of ultramarine helps explain some of the slightly confusing explanations of various observers about Stuart's use of blue pigments.  Jouette said Stuart "uses no ultramarine but keeps it by him." [Jouette 1816]  Jocelyn gave the most complete explanation: "though he [Stuart] preferred Antwerp blue to all other ordinary blues, he would doubtless have used Ultramarine...but for the expense, and especially the trouble & uncertainty of procuring it." The final word on this matter should be given to Stuart himself, who would probably have been impatient with the discussion: "I can produce what I wish from these colours, nor can any man say whether or not I put into my faces ultramarine.  Colouring is at best a matter of fancy & taste." [Jouette 1816]

Stuart did not change his palette very much during the time when there are good records of his colors..........TO BE CONTINUED...


Thursday, May 5, 2016

Stuart's Pigments and Paint Application

American Painters on Technique: the Colonial Period to 1860, "Gilbert Stuart: the First American Old Master": Mayer, Lance, and Gay Myers; Los Angeles, J Paul Getty Museum, 2011

In 3 parts:
In spite of {Benjamin} West's statement that "it is of no use to steal Stuart's colors [if you want to paint as he does you must steal his eyes]", American painters were extremely curious to know which pigments Stuart used to achieve his dazzling effects.  As a result, we probably know more about his pigments than about those of any other early American painter.
The most remarkable thing about Stuart's colors is that they are not very remarkable.  Portrait painting can be done (and has been done for centuries) with relatively few pigments.  In fact, all contemporary observers agreed that Stuart used a limited number of pigments and mixtures on his palette.  It was traditional for a painter to place dabs of pure colors around the edge of the palette (usually beginning with white next to the thumbhole and proceeding left to the darker pigments) and also to place some premixed "tints" in the area below this row.  Stuart apparently placed seven or eight pure pigments and nine or ten premixed tints on his palette, which is fewer than many other artists whose palette arrangements have been recorded.  For instance, Thomas Bardwell, in his 1756 book, recommended twelve pure colors and twelve mixed tints for portraits.  In the early nineteenth century, some writers recommended up to sixty-six mixed tints! Jocelyn's description of Stuart's actual wooden palette took a gentle poke at artists who thought that a large number of mixed tints would help them; he said Stuart's "pallet-board" was "smaller than the large pallets affected by some lesser artists."
A limited number of pigments and mixtures makes sense given Stuart's style of painting, and in fact it was his method of applying his paints that was unique, rather than the nature of his pigments.  In the use of his palette and the application of his paints, Stuart was nearly the opposite of Copely, who was said to have spent hours premixing the exact tint with his palette knife for every flesh tone and shadow.  Stuart, by comparison, "condemned the practice of mixing a colour on a knife, and comparing it with whatever was to be imitated.---'Good flesh colouring,' he said, 'partook of all colours, not mixed, so as to be combined in one tint, but shining through each other, like the blood through the natural skin.'  Stuart could not endure Copely's laboured flesh, which he compared to tanned leather."
Suart used, in Jouett's words, "chopping" strokes of distinct colors to give the effect of translucent flesh, thereby avoiding the leathery look that he disliked in Copely's work.  Jouett also reported Stuart's advice to "keep your colours as separate as you can.  No blending, tis destruction to clear and beautiful effect."  Others noticed this as well; John Cogdell, after describing how Stuart combined different colors, added: "Tho this is not done on his pallette but only as they are wanted with the pencil.  Mr. Stewart lays one tint over another." In a detailed account of Stuart's method, Obadiah Dickinson described how a portrait became more distinct as it progressed; "Mr. Steward endeavours in the first sitting to give the appearance of the person at 20 yards distant and in each succeeding sitting to advance its effect nearer until it be completed at 2 yards distance."  But Dickinson noted that even in final touches, Stuart advised; "What you do in the shadows over the glazing must be finished if possible with a single touch or you will spoil the beauty of your work."

Stuart also had opinions about Titian and Rubens that may have influenced his own method of applying paint............ TO BE CONTINUED

Samuel Meeker 1763-1831 a merchant in Philadelphia

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Progress on the portrait in the Stuart style, and a question for the experts! & insight into how Stuart painted

Jeanne Grimsby is painting the portrait of my gt grandmother Carrie [Martin] Cory, gt grandaughter of the twin sister of Samuel Meeker, following as much as possible the style of Gilbert Stuart.  As a reminder, Samuel Meeker gifted Phoebe, his twin sister, the Gilbert Stuart portrait of himself to celebrate their 40ieth birthday.  I am sure there was a fancy dance ball at their Schuylkill estate, Fountain Green on this occasion. (click on the link for more information, or also enter into the search box on right.)  I have written Jeanne that I am certain Carrie would have been so thrilled with this project!
Now for the big news, a question for the experts in fact.
Was Gilbert Stuart left-handed?  As far as I know, this has not been discussed as a possibility.
It is amazing that with this project, Jeanne has proposed this insight!
Below is the latest communication and report on the progress of the portrait, with insights into how Stuart {might have} painted~
Jeanne has so kindly offered me the painting, I feel like this is a replay of what happened when the twins turned 40 years old...... but with only a slight variation...
Thank you Jeanne, for such a wonderful, amazing project!

A [dizzying] Summary: Phoebe Meeker marries Job Brookfield (second marriage), daughter Mary Brookfield (b. 1804-after 1856) m. John Ludlum Martin (b.1796-1856), son Thomas Mulford Martin (b.1831-1917) m. Mary C. Ayers & has 3 daughters Carolyn (Carrie)(b.1862-1937), Jane and Emma. Carrie inherited the painting as her two sisters were childless. The GS portrait comes to Ca. Carrie's son Benjamin Hyde Cory is my grandfather, he passed in 1983. His daughter Carolyn Cory Ahrens is still with me, my mother.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~note to me from Jeanne~~~~~~~~~~~~

  Today was another productive painting day. The result of using the portrait of Sally Otis, with her smooth, pale complexion,  as a model for color and shading was that Carrie was looking about 18. So today's task was to age her a bit. Now she looks in her 40s, which I think is correct for her hair and dress style. I resisted the temptation to put some gray in her hair, although the photo seems to show some unruly gray hairs sticking out at her temples. If you would prefer that I add that detail, let me know.

Today was also my first attempt ever at painting a lace jabot, and I think it turned out well for the first time. I think I would have to paint a few more portraits in Stuart's style to really assimilate it all. The jabot is from his John Adams portrait, as is the blue velvet jacket she is now wearing. In reality, she probably would have removed her jacket when sitting for her portrait, but I thought just having a white blouse occupy such a large area of the picture would be a distraction, so she has a jacket on.

Stuart was a very "loose" painter, very modern in his approach. In his Adams portrait. the canvas shows through in places. Because I didn't see that in the beginning, my painting is a bit overworked, especially in the background. I have also used the background from the Adams portrait (the National Gallery has a great downloadable high-resolution image of it). The background is a shaded brown, a great way to use up the brown paint left on the palette at the end of the day. Brown paint dries very quickly, so there is no keeping it for the next day. If you look at the background of the Adams portrait you can see that it is not all one color - it is painted in sort of cloud-like forms. That is done using a long-handled bristle brush, and sort of scrubbing the paint on using your whole arm - which brings me to today's discovery - that Stuart was left-handed. If you look at the background of the Adams portrait you can see curved shapes made by a left-handed painter. I tried to duplicate them, and couldn't because I am right-handed. Similarly there have been other places where I have had difficulty painting certain things the same way because Stuart painted them left-handedly. 

Anyway - I expect to finish the painting in the next couple of weeks.  I'll send you another photo when it is done. After that, it will need to dry thoroughly before it can be varnished. That will be at least another 3 months. If you like it and want me to send it to you, the earliest I could ship it out would be mid to late August. 


Monday, March 7, 2016

Mrs. Harrison Gray Otis (nee Sally Foster) & ....Jeanne's fascinating project, to paint the gt grandaughter of Phoebe Meeker in the style of Gilbert Stuart

Carrie [b. Martin] Cory was born in 1862 in New Jersey.  Her father was Thomas Mulford Martin, grandfather was John Ludlum Martin and grandmother Mary [Brookfield] Martin; the mother of Mary Brookfield was Phoebe Meeker, twin sister of my Samuel Meeker.  Thus Phoebe Meeker was the great grandmother of Carrie.  Carrie is MY gt grandmother. {Thereby is the Provenance of the Samuel Meeker painting.}
Carrie moved to Fresno Ca after she married Lewis Cory who was born in San Jose Ca in 1861. The two were formally married in New York City in Oct of 1882.  The Cory family was established in New Jersey before later descendents (Dr. Ben Cory) took the trek across the plains and established his practice in the Pueblo of San Jose in late 1847 (just before gold was discovered).
Now one of my readers has begun an exciting project, after seeing photos of my gt grandmother (scroll down to see the photos, and click here for more on Carrie.)  She is attempting to paint this descendant of the Meeker twins in the style of Gilbert Stuart.  What a fascinating idea, and this piece of artwork will be posted when it is finished!  Just below is the latest email from Jeanne, who provides technical details about the work in progress.  For those of you who love GS, or who love portrait painting for that matter, read on!
At the end of this post, you can view the GS portrait of Sally [Foster] Otis that Jeanne references.  It is truely the work of a master. Stuart painted other Otis family members so I will post more information and other portraits of her family in the near future.
For me, this project is a special one; and I can only point to my Gilbert Stuart blog, for having a reader bless my ancestor with a portrait.  I'm sure that Carrie would be highly pleased.  Her life as a housewife [albeit wealthy housewife] in Fresno Ca was probably not as exciting as the life of the Meeker twins in early Philadelphia at the turn of the century.  Although Fresno at the time was supposed to be the next San Francisco.... 

Just thought I'd send an update on the progress with Carrie's portrait. I think you may be surprised, as I am, at how her appearance is developing. The face is well along, although not glazed yet, and she looks somewhat different than I had expected. I wanted to explain a bit about why that is the case.

Although Stuart would have used the "sight-size" method of developing his likenesses, we don't have the luxury of Carrie sitting in person. What we have is two somewhat blurry photos (they are still a whole lot better than similar photos from my own family). In a case like this, the way I get a likeness is to enlarge the photo(s) to full size and make a careful tracing on clear acetate. I transfer the outline to the painting surface, which in this case is a gessoed panel. I keep the acetate tracing taped to the side of the panel during painting so I can periodically flip it over the painting to check for accuracy. So I know that Carrie's image is a true one.

The photo I traced was the hatless one, because it shows her forehead and hair. When that photo was enlarged, it was just barely possible to locate and draw the correct contours of her eyes, especially the lower lids. What initially appeared to be outer edges of her lower eyelids in the photo are actually their shadows. The eyelids themselves are shaped as you would expect from their appearance in the other photo. In addition, she had very excellent bone structure with a strong brow ridge. My older daughter has the same feature, and when she is photographed outside in bright sunlight, her eyebrows disappear. That is what happened to the outer portions of Carrie's brows in the first photo, so I did have to shape them as they appear in the second photo. Between those two refinements to the photo, her appearance is somewhat different than you will have expected. I think she looks quite pretty.

As I had mentioned in earlier email, the light source in the photo was not as perfect as I had originally thought. Looking through Stuart's work (and that of other artists too, like Reynolds for example), I have discovered that nearly all of them have the light source on the "near" side of the subject's face, illuminating the shape of the nose so that the shadow of the nose is on the "far" side of the face. Among the few exceptions to this in Stuart;s work are his Jefferson portraits. So I had to find a Stuart painting with a female sitter to use as a model for the shading on Carrie's face. There are not many good closeup photos of Stuart's portraits, which is sort of odd I think. But I did find the portrait of Sally Otis at the Reynolda House website, and I am using that as a guide for shading and color. 

As you can guess, I am having a lot of fun with it all, and learning a few tricks as well. Today, I'm going to start on the lace blouse, which will probably bring its own challenges.


Jeanne mentions the Stuart portrait of Sally Otis, so I thought it would be interesting to include her portrait in this post.  The portrait descended through family members, and was acquired by the Reynolda House from Vose Galleries in Boston in 1967.

courtesy of Reynolda House 
Mrs. Harrison Gray Otis

Mrs. Harrison Gray Otis 1770-1836
She was Sally, daughter of William and Grace (Spear) Foster of Boston.  She married, in 1790, Harrison Gray Otis.

Boston c.1809. Panel, 32 x26 in.  Half-length, life-size, seated in an Empire armchair, upholstered in blue damask, upholstered in blue damask, her body turned three-quarters left, her head nearly three-quarters, and her brown eyes directed to the spectator.  Her brown hair is parted with small curls on the forehead and in front of the ears and done high on her head, with a small jeweled pin showing.  She wears a simple white muslin dress, low-necked, high-waisted, and with very short, slightly puffed sleeves.  Her waist is confined by a narrow white girdle fastened in front with an oval gold pin.  Over her right shoulder is a light reddish-brown India shawl with embroidered design, which falls upon her lap, and surrounding her, appears behind her left arm and lies upon the chair arm.  About the upper left arm is a chased gold amulet.  She sits with her body slightly inclined forward, with her hands lying lightly clasped in her lap.  The backround is of dark tones of greenish-browns and grays.  A close inspection of the background shows indistinctly the head of a child which has been painted out.  In addition to this visible evidence, there is documentary evidence that when first painted Mrs. Otis was shown holding her son, Alleyne Otis (1807-1873), in her arms.  This evidence is given by a letter written to Mrs. Charles Davis of Boston to her mother, Mrs. Benjamin Bussey, under date of Oct. 13, 1809, referring to a visit which she had made a few days before to Stuart’s studio. “Mrs. Otis’s picture is as perfect as it can be.  She is taken with her younger son in her arms and a most beautiful one it is.  I asked Mr. Stuart how it was possible to get a correct likeness of children, who are always in motion.  ‘I shoot flying,’ was the answer.”  Of this picture Mr. Charles Henry Hart wrote: “Its dignified and graceful pose and its delicate and pure color make it one of the painter’s great achievements.”


Wednesday, February 10, 2016

I am honored at this request; my great grandmother Carrie and her similarity to my Samuel Meeker portrait. My answer? Yes, of course.

I received an interesting email, see below.  Carrie [Martin] Cory, my great-grandmother, brought the Samuel Meeker portrait to California from New Jersey.  The portrait was passed to her through her father (Thomas Mulford Martin), both direct descendents of Phoebe Meeker (twin of Samuel who received the portrait as a gift on their 40ieth birthday.)  For more on Carrie's story and provenance of the painting, click here.   My great-grandfather Lewis Cory and wife Carrie Cory are of course in the history of provenance of the Meeker painting, as I am, now.
Does Carrie have an incredible resemblance to Samuel Meeker?  I say, yes!  It is simply astonishing.
After marrying Lewis, Carrie left New Jersey, to live in Fresno California.  Lewis was one of the first practicing attorneys there having received his law degree from Columbia.  She received the portrait because there was no male sibling, and her two sisters remained childless.
Phoebe Meeker was Carrie's great-grandmother.  Carrie is my great-grandmother.

Good morning,

Just looking through your blog again for a Gilbert Stuart boost for my day, observing his use of color on foreheads, cheeks, and eyes, which I think is the most obvious characteristic that we notice first when looking at a possible Stuart. 

The photo of Carrie Martin in your post from June 24, 2014 struck me as being lit and composed very much as Stuart would have set up a sitter for having a portrait done. The main difference I think is that her head is not turned quite as much as Stuart would have done, so her eyes are then turned more to look directly at the photographer. 

Which brings me to a question that you will probably think is odd. What would you say to the idea of a painting of Carrie in Stuart's style? I am an (amateur) artist - you can check out a few of my pieces on facebook - and doing a painting in Stuart's technique would be tremendous fun and great practice for me. I am not suggesting that you commission a work. It is just an idea that intrigues me, but I would not use your photograph for such a purpose without your permission.

If you are OK with the idea, I'll go ahead, though at a somewhat smaller size than Stuart would have done. Would you be able to tell me what color Carrie's hair and eyes probably were? In the photo, her hair looks light brown or auburn and her eyes look possibly light blue. 

Please let me know what you think.

Jeanne Grimsby


Yes Carrie's hair would have been auburn, and quite possibly her eyes were blue.  Her son (my grandfather Benjamin Hyde Cory) had blue eyes, as does my mother Carolyn [Cory] Ahrens. Ben and his daughter (my mom) are also in the provenance of the painting; another amazing story!  Although Ben could have inherited his blue eyes from Lewis.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

More evidence that Ruggles is a Stuart! and two other possible Stuarts...?

When determining if a portrait is in fact done by our master Gilbert Stuart, particularly when it is not mentioned in the Lawrence Park volumes (a set of 4 large books two of which provide black and white photographs of the portraits and two which give written descriptions and short bios), it helps to cement the attribution when the evidence piles up.
On April 27 I did a post on the individual Ruggles Whiting [click on this link], a writer [Elisha L. President Dover Historical society] wrote to me that he thought this portrait was a genuine Stuart.  I also thought it to be a genuine Stuart.

Elisha has found a copy of the will, and this portrait is mentioned as being "taken by Gilbert Stuart" [note the language, similar to photography].  This can be considered solid evidence!

"In researching Ruggles Whiting I recently found a copy of his will, written in 1816 and probated in 1827.  Page 3 contains the following statement:
“It is my will, and I do hereby give and bequeath to my beloved son Lucius R. Whiting my library, charts, globes, my wardrobe including my watch and all wearing apparel, my chess board and best set of chessmen, my portrait of myself taken by Gilbert Stuart Esq., my portrait of Ralph I. Reed, taken by the same artist before his decease, and all my sporting apparatus of every kind.”

Elisha points out that this will indicates that Ruggles owned another Stuart, and indeed a third Stuart. From the will: "“It is my will and I give and bequeath to the Government of the United States, my original portrait of Jacob Perkins Esquire of Newburyport, the great mechanical inventor, taken by Gilbert Stuart Esq. the celebrated American artist, to be placed in such part of the National Buildings, in the City of Washington, as the Speaker of the House of Representatives of the United States for the time being shall order and direct.”

Thus there should be a Stuart portrait of "Ralph Reed", and of "Jacob Perkins".  I will investigate this further~
The fact that Ruggles now seems to own THREE Stuart portraits, also is indirect evidence that the Ruggles portrait is a genuine Stuart, as Elisha pointed out in his note to me.
Thankyou, super sleuthing!
Also of note...this merchant was intellectual (library, globes, chess) and atheletic!

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Parents of Lovely Lydia Smith, a fortune begins in the commercial rail industry. Mr. & Mrs. Barney Smith

Mr. and Mrs. Barney Smith
Barney Smith: 1763-1828 of Taunton, Massachusetts [Stuart, Boston c. 1825]
Mrs. Barney Smith: 1755-1843 of Scituate, Massachusetts [Stuart, Boston 1817]

On April 27th of 2015 I did a post on Lovely Lydia Smith, who is one of the more beautiful ladies who was painted by our master.  From the Lawrence Park Volumes:

A daughter of Barney and Ann (Otis) Smith of Boston.  Her parents, her brother, Henry Barney Smith, her sister, Mrs. George Alexander Otis, and her uncle and aunt, Mr. and Mrs. Abiel Smith, were all painted by Stuart. [Stuart often painted numerous members of one family, this was also considered as evidence that my Meeker was painted by Stuart, as his cousin William Meeker's portrait is included in the Park Volumes.]
To continue to read more about lovely Lydia, click on the link above.

This post presents the parents of Lydia, Mr. and Mrs. Barney Smith. Mr. Barney Smith was a wealthy importer of English goods, and is also known for having purchased the estate of Royal Governor Hutchinson (last royal Gov. of Massachusetts) in 1812, known as Unquety. The house presented an impressive Greek Revival style architecture, built overlooking Boston Harbor.[This Governor remained loyal to the royal authorities and was forced to leave the new world with nothing, thus it can be surmised that Barney got a good deal from this situation.] Barney seems to have been involved in a new means of transport, the commercial railway. He was one of 4 directors on the newly formed co. Granite Railway in 1826, the first company to have a commercial contract to carry freight by rail. The railyway moved freight, particularly stone.

From The History of Milton 1640- 1877 [editor Albert Teele pp 134-5]
Mr. Smith was of medium size, of fine form, with light complexion, and a profusion of silky hair of the purest white; his usual dress was a blue broadcloth with bright buttons, and a buff vest.  His manners were graceful and pleasant. His kind feelings and ample means prompted him to do so much for the benefit of the community around him, and particularly to his neighbors less fortunate than himself, both in health and sickness, that he was universally beloved and respected while living, and his death which ocurred in 1828, was a public loss to the neighborhood.

NOTE the signs in the painting that this individual was a merchant [similarly to my Meeker]...he is holding papers.  A contract possibly?  The formulaic style for painting "holding the contract" is very typical, where the paper(s) is held in place between the thumb and index finger. The customer would have paid more for the painting, to include the hand and paper.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Did Gilbert Stuart paint the pastel of George Washington? & ATTENTION an upcoming GS exhibition!

A reader wrote me:
Beth I saw your 2011 posting regarding a possible G. Stuart and wanted to run my story by you.
We have had a pastel portrait of GW in our family for unknown generations. It is relatively rudimentary compared with Gilbert Stuarts works, has an odd nose, and, again, is in pastel.  It is unsigned, but has in block lettering "G C Stuart" and "1795" in the bottom corner as well as "George Washington" and "1795" to the right of the bust.  Some other, less defined writing and another 1795 is below on the right.
It is definitely old by the look of the canvas, and my mother has by marriage connections to John Janney.  She has authenticated Washington and Lee items in her estate.
That said, but I question if it is a G C Stuart as it is pastel, has G C Stuart on it, and shows a much younger GW than appeared in contemporary portraits of him around 1796.
Would like your thoughts, and have attached a photo.
Steve Be**si
What did I write back, yes or no?  and why?
Dear Steve,
Thankyou for your note! Again I would like to remind my readers, and you, that I am not an expert, meaning I am not a titled art historian.  For genuine authentication one should consult well-known experts in the field! That being said, let me give you my opinion on your very nice pastel. As you describe it yourself, the pastel is relatively "rudimentary".  It is "not signed" which is typical of Stuart's works, he said once that his signature was the entirety of the painting itself--He would never have placed his name in block letters on any of his works.
It is important to note that our master either did not finish a painting, or the portraits were finished masterpieces.  I have not heard or seen of any work that was not a masterpiece and an outstanding likeness of the sitter...even some of his unfinished paintings have the glimmers of his mastery.  Commonly he did not finish a painting if something the sitter did or said was irritating, or there was disagreement on the price, or the female was too accurately depicted (displeasing the female sitter who wanted and expected to see something beautiful.)
The Stuart portraits are so accurate that they almost look like a photograph--so any work that hints at only 2 dimensions, is not likely to be a Stuart.  Your pastel of GW is rather inaccurate; when considering the nose as you mentioned, the lips/mouth...GS definitely had a consistent way of drawing GW's mouth, which emphasized the protrusion of his lips due to his false teeth.  Comparing this to GS's GW portraits, one could not easily tell they are of the same person.
Your pastel MAY be from the correct time period, it is hard for me to say.  Frame experts can look at the frame, other experts can tell the approx age of the paint and canvas, etc.  It looks to be in the style of GS, so it could have originated in that period.
But I can say with certitude, that this work would not have been done by our master.  it is still lovely and it is always an honor to have an image of Washington, no matter whether it is a Gilbert Stuart or not!


Gilbert Stuart: From Boston to Brunswick
July 9, 2015 - January 3, 2016
Markell Gallery

This exhibition brings together a selection of oil paintings by Gilbert Stuart (1755–1828) from the Museum’s collection, including his famous portraits of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. The preeminent portraitist of the early republic, Stuart created fashionable likenesses of the period’s most important political, military, and social figures. Each of works included in the exhibition was completed after Stuart’s move to Boston in 1805. Collectively, they provide insight into the artist’s relationship with other artists and collectors in the region, including members of the Bowdoin family.

My last word on this post, ALEXANDER HAMILTON, treasury secretary under Pres. George Washington, SHOULD NOT BE taken off the $10.00 bill.  Gimme a break. That is an outrage, and a lowering the bar of the education in this nation.  Everyone should know of, and about, Alexander Hamilton.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

My aunt, a Stanford University Campus 'queen', and direct descendant of Samuel Meeker's twin Phoebe Meeker

REMINDER--Samuel gifted his expensive/exquisite/illustrious Stuart portrait to his twin sister, all logical deductions point to the portrait being given to Phoebe on their 40ieth birthday.  It would have been the occasion for a ball given at their country estate, Fountain Green (click on link) on the Schuylkill river.  This would certainly not have been an ordinary birthday party! If these two could have looked down into the crystal ball and seen the future, they'd be proud.

My aunt Edelen (and my mom) are direct descendants of Phoebe Meeker 

Phoebe Meeker (1763-?) m. Job Brookfield
Mary Brookfield (1804- after 1856) m. John Ludlum Martin
Thomas Mulford Martin (1831-1917) m. Mary Ayers
Carrie Ayers Martin (1862-1937) m. Lewis Lincoln Cory (portrait brought to Ca) (click on link for a photograph of Carrie to view similarities to Samuel Meeker portrait)
Benjamin Hyde Cory (1896-1983) m. Susan Leavitt (my grandparents Susie and Pops) (click on link for a photograph of Ben to view similarities to Samuel Meeker portrait)
 Ben and Susie had two daughters

Edelen and Carolyn Cory (click on link for a photograph of mom) 
(My aunt and mom both graduated from Stanford University; 
currently Edelen lives in Menlo Park Ca and my mom in Santa Cruz Ca)

Lovely Edelen was voted campus queen at Stanford University in 1951. This photograph took up a full page in the yearbook, the "Stanford Quad 1951"
The icon to the left became politically incorrect.  How I remember it though!
Was she signing out for a date?
Happy moms day to Edelen and my mom Carolyn!

Monday, April 27, 2015

Ruggles Whiting...did he sit for Stuart? Yes or no? and lovely Lydia Smith....

A reader wrote me: Beth, I am in the process of becoming more familiar with Gilbert Stuart and have very much enjoyed your blog. It occurs to me that you may find the attached photo of interest and I would appreciate any thoughts that you might care to offer.  The portrait is not signed, but was displayed at the MFA in Boston many years ago (1917 to be precise) as the work of Stuart.  It was at the time in the possession of the subject's great granddaughter who, in all likelihood, bequeathed it to the Dover Historical Society which has owned it for many years (I'm presently pulling together the provenance and will know the story of the acquisition in due course.)  The subject is Ruggles Whiting, a Boston merchant born in Dover, MA in 1779 and died in Boston or Dover 1827.  

My thanks in advance for your thoughts and my apologies for the rather poor quality of my photo.
Elisha L. President Dover Historical society

I looked at this oil that Elisha sent me.  Having tried to photograph my own Stuart numerous times, I sympathized with the glare in the lower right corner, throwing some of the light from the flash into the photograph.  Did I mind?............!!

****& my response below****

Dear Elisha,
Ruggles is not in the Lawrence Park volumes, which is not particularly significant as my Meeker was not either.

It is a beautiful portrait, and has all the particular and  stunning Stuart features characteristic of a Stuart he used to say.... his portraits did not need his signature because the entire portrait itself would be the signature!  My Samuel Meeker was born in 1763, which made him about 40 when he was painted.  Ruggles looks to me to be in his early 30ies--which means possibly Stuart did his portrait somewhere around 1809 (say Ruggles is at age 30)--well within the years that Stuart was painting well (see portrait of Lydia Smith done in 1808-10) .
Ruggles has a receding hairline, but no grey whatsoever, does not have the darker bags under the eyes that my Meeker has...which makes me think he is around 30 or so.  The  translucent skin tones are pure Stuart, and the paler forehead was a common feature, since the men were often outdoors on horseback wearing a hat (the cheeks in contrast receiving lots of sun).  The sitter chose a less expensive portrait, which did not include a background, or hand or any kind of prop.  Stuart would have surely tried to persuade Mr. Whiting to choose a background that he often used for merchants (like Meeker) which would have him holding a paper, indicating a ledger of some sort, and the chair with sky/drapery in the background.  (Samuel Meeker's cousin William Meeker was a business partner of Samuel but also chose the less expensive format for his portrait, which makes me think that Samuel was the "CEO".)  Stuart was in Boston from 1805 to 1828.
This portrait looks to me to be a genuine Stuart.  Thanks so much for sending the photo of your portrait!  It is worthy of a great display location, along with the story of the sitter.  I have found that a Stuart portrait by itself, without the story of the sitter, deprives the viewer of the full scope of Stuart's magnificent talent, as well as a small dose of our history.  The provenance also lends interest to a Stuart painting. Can I post Mr Ruggles Whiting on my blog?
Thanks again,


Now for the portrait of lovely Lydia, who sat for our master approx in the same time frame, in Boston. (This lovely portrait I mention in the response above). She would have been only 7 years younger than dear Ruggles.  Most likely the Whitings knew the Smiths. Stay in tune for more information on Ruggles, and the Smith family.

Lydia Smith

Daughter of Barney Smith, educated in the female arts in France, the portrait shows her skill in artful clothing (simple white muslin gown with empire waist, the daring fashion set by the Empress Josephine, wife of Napoleon), indulging in the proper pastime for young ladies of wealth and culture, drawing and music (see piano in left corner.)  Her jewels also portray elegant simplicity, a string of choker length pearls with a hanging gold pendant.  Lydia studied at the school for young ladies established by famed Mme Campan (who learned the arts at the court of Versailles), where she studied French, music, and art; at one point two of Napoleon’s sisters attended the famous school. This would have been a most prestigious, and of course the best preparatory education for any young girl whose principle aim was to attract a worthy suitor.
Lydia found her future husband in London in 1811, widower Jonathan Russell who became the US minister to Sweden. Perhaps her strong determination to excel became more of an end in itself, as she was aged 31 by the time of the marriage.  Russell was a widower, with four children.

Miss Lydia Smith 
{from the Lawrence Park Volumes}

A daughter of Barney and Ann (Otis) Smith of Boston.  Her parents, her brother, Henry Barney Smith, her sister, Mrs. George Alexander Otis, and her uncle and aunt, Mr. and Mrs. Abiel Smith, were all painted by Stuart.  She and her brother passed their early life in France and England, and she attended in Paris the school of Madame Campan.  Later she studied art in England under the instruction of Benjamin West, who gave her his palette, which is still preserved in the family.  She became, in 1817 in Boston, the second wife of Honorable Jonathan Russell (1771-1832) of Boston, who had a distinguished diplomatic career as charge d'affairs at Paris and London, and as one of the commissioners in 1814 to negotiate and conclude the Treaty of Peace with Great Britain at Ghent.  From 1814 to 1818 he represented the United States as minister plenipotentiary to Sweden, and the first year of Mrs. Russell’s married life was probably passed in Sweden.  In 1818 they returned permanently to America and settled in Mendon, Massachusetts, where he represented that district in Congress from 1821 to 1825.  Soon after he removed to Milton, Massachusetts, where he died, and where his widow survived him for nearly thirty years.

Boston, c 1807 (the date has been determined to be two to three years later). Panel, 32 1/8 x 28 ¾. Life-size, half-length, seated in a gilt Empire armchair, with her body in profile, her head three-quarters left, and brown eyes to spectator.  Her coloring is brilliant, her dark brown hair is parted and brushed smooth with the exception of a long ringlet in front of her ear.  Before her is a desk which supports the top of a portfolio resting on her lap.  On the cover of the portfolio is a sheet of paper upon which Miss Smith is drawing, and in her right hand she holds a porte crayon, while with her left she steadies the portfolio. She wears a very simple and attractive white muslin dress, low-necked and short-sleeved, and over her right shoulder is thrown a pale mauve scarf with gold threads.  About her neck is a necklace of small pearls. In the pearly-toned background appears the wall of a room on which, at the left side of the picture, are two pilasters. 

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