Monday, October 19, 2009

having a brew and a bite ... leads to an INSIGHT on Gilbert Stuart

Just yesterday, I told Eric to swing by, we could ride the bicycles over to Seabright Brewery and have a brew and a bite to eat. Exercise, and a beer as a reward! The smell of the ocean...sunny Sunday afternoon!

Now I am recording this event here, because of an insight I gleaned into Gibby, by this conversation with Eric, who is an illustrator. He has a blog called "stream of consciousness comics." Eric often carries around a very small sketchbook, and at a whim will begin to draw (you can see it in the photo on the right). Here was our conversation:

"Let me seeeee Eric (I take his little sketchbook.) Oh poor lady..." (a sketch of a woman from a place he had just frequented a few days before, lots of old fasioned ringlets in her hair, and lines on her face.) I continued...."Did you see the sketch of me that my cousin did thats on the blog, I thought it made me look like the wickedwitchofthewest, skrawny mouth and absurd hair..." Eric responds. "Yea....thats why I don't like drawing women ... as much as men." I say ...."Right. Women need... (we struggle for the right word) ...more....flattery !"
I thought about that for a few moments. "Hey, I just had an INSIGHT! Maybe thats why Gilbert Stuart didn't draw as many women as men. I always thought that maybe one of the reasons for this is that...he is gay!" Eric responds, "Any evidence?"
I said, "Not really. I mean, you never know. He DID have 12 children. And just that he drew Sam Meeker with such love. But at this time you know, this was a big struggle for portrait artists, the question of how true to the sitter to be in a portrait, particularly if the female was not incredibly attractive. Men are less sensitive to this point. And Stuart was very stringent in wishing to portray his sitters as ACCURATELY as possible. So maybe he was bored with the reactions of women who were (often?) not entirely pleased with the results, expecting something more beautiful than... the reality....Maybe thats why he did so many more portraits of men!"
Well, and because of course, men had more of the "Wherewithal" .

Friday, October 16, 2009

Philadelphia 1828

Samuel was 65.
Twin sister Phebe Meeker Cochran/Brookfield is already deceased (1814), the portrait of Samuel Meeker is now in the hands of her daughter Mary Brookfield ~click here for family tree~ And therefore back in New Jersey, most likely in the Westfield area.

July 9, 1828 -- Gibby's death in Boston.


Monday, October 12, 2009

History of the ownership (PROVENANCE) of Mr. Meeker ...& lovely Edith, and a bit more of my own story

Edith (sister of my grandfather Ben Cory) moved back into the old Victorian in Fresno after my gt grandparents both were passed away, and she then by default was in possesion of Mr. Meeker. My first memory of the portrait was when it was with Edith but by then, unfortunately, the old Victorian which had taken up a block in downtown Fresno had been torn down and Edith was living on a farm in the nearby countryside, in Clovis. In her older age she was taken care of by two "Oakies." My mom told me that yes Edith did get married, but she had fallen out of a carriage and could not have children. (For the story of my first memory of the portrait click here.)

PROVENANCE with notes

•Given by the sitter Samuel Meeker to his twin Phebe Meeker (1763-1815) Phebe married 1) Cochran (merchant, first business partner of Samuel) and a second marriage to 2) Job Brookfield. [It can be presumed that the portrait was gifted, and not inherited, as Samuel lived many years longer than Phebe. At Phebe's death the portrait was in her posession and passed to...

•Daughter Mary Brookfield (1807-after 1856) m. John Ludlum Martin a physician in Rahway, NJ

•Son Thomas Mulford Martin (1831-1917) of Rahway NJ [a bookbinder, see his photo here]

•Oldest daughter Emma Martin of Princeton, NJ (lends portrait to Philadelphia Museum of Art, see sticker on back of painting regarding this) presumably upon her death the portrait goes to sister Carrie Martin Cory (1862-1938) & portrait is taken to California. Carrie is married to Lewis L. Cory of San Jose, Ca. Lewis Cory (Princeton and Columbia Law) was a prominent corporate litigation attorney in the city of Fresno, Ca. He argued cases before the US Supreme Court. [for a family photo of Carrie and her husband Lewis Lincoln Cory click here] Lewis was second son of Benjamin Cory, who traversed the plains (click here for his story and an original letter) in 1847 and was the first doctor in San Jose, Ca.

•Daughter of Carrie and Lewis (pictured at the top of the post), Edith Cory (1884-1976) (no issue)

•Niece Carolyn Elizabeth Cory (1928-) [daughter of Edith's brother Benjamin Hyde Cory (1896-1983) my grandfather]-Carolyn is my mother, {click here to see marriage photo} , who met my dad John Ahrens at Stanford University. They were married in the spring of '49 in Carmel, Ca.

•Daughter Elizabeth Ahrens-Kley (me); Santa Cruz, Ca. I married a German Willy Kley, now a professor of astrophysics at the University of Tuebingen, Germany. Our daughter Lily lives with me here in Santa Cruz. She is now applying to different Universities, Princeton will be one as that is where Pops (Benjamin Cory) and his dad (Lewis Cory) both graduated.
I have two brothers John and Paul, but neither were interested in the old portrait. Too bad for them, but lucky for me! ...and lucky for Samuel, for who knows where he could have ended up, without my research!! To discover an unknown Gilbert Stuart at this late date, how cool is that!
For graphic of the family tree from Carrie to Samuel Meeker click here (note that the father is also a Samuel Meeker.)

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The random monthly pick; Mrs. Isaac P. Davis and her sister; and 'high praise' for portrait painter Thomas Sully

Mrs. Isaac P. Davis and her sister Mrs. Bernard Henry by Gilbert Stuart 1806

As usual, it seems to be easier to find out more about the relevant male-- but in any case from there we can extrapolate just a bit about the life of this young lady named Susan, on the right. From L. PARK; "Mrs. Davis was Susan Jackson, and Mrs. Henry was Mary Jackson, daughters of Doctor David and Susan (Kemper) Jackson of Chester County, Pennsylvania. Susan Jackson married, in 1807, Isaac P. Davis (1771-1855) of Boston, a very intimate friend of Stuart, and Mary married Bernard Henry of Philadelphia." ..."Mrs. Davis, the head at the right of the picture, is shown with a smiling face, brown eyes and hair, and a fresh complexion, with her head slightly tilted towards the right. Mrs. Henry has a fresh complexion, but eyes of a darker brown, and her brown hair has a reddish tinge, and her expressionn is serious."
Isaac P. Davis (1771-1855), Boston merchant, manufacturer and businessman, was the brother of Judge John Davis, politician, statesman, historian who served as president of the Massachusetts Historical Society (1818-1835), and was said to be the first person to refer to the Plymouth colonists as pilgrims. Isaac was close friends of Daniel Webster, and of Gilbert Stuart. The Stuart portrait of Daniel Webster {click here for the Stuart portrait of Webster (and the titillating story of his relationship with miniaturist and colleague/student of GS Sarah Goodridge) entries April 15, 18, 2009} was painted for Isaac and hung for many years in his parlor.
the following below is from “The Penn magazine of history and biography, Vol 32 “ by Historical Society of Pennsylvania --
( note: Thomas Sully (1783-1872) was a well-known English-born American portrait painter)
I tried to find the Sully portrait of Isaac P. Davis but was not successful.
Isaac P. Davis was an early patron and friend of American artists and meeting Sully at Stuart’s, when Sully made his first call, offered to sit for his portrait to Sully, that Stuart might see what Sully could do. Accordingly Davis sat, as entered in the Register, and the picture was shown to Stuart. After looking at it attentively for some time he said, “Keep what you have got and get as much as you can,” which was high praise from Stuart, who usually advised to forget what you knew and not try again.

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