Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The MASTER portrait painter and a copyist; Dr. William Thornton, a man for all seasons! Now you can compare

Norma wrote, to ask whether I thought her portrait (shown below) was an original Stuart.  Take a look at it .... what do you think ....?
It had all the same characteristics of a Stuart...........!

HERE is why Stuart is considered a master portrait painter.

Norma: I bought this painting at an auction years ago—just discovered it was William Thornton.  Mine is the same size as is in the Nat. Gallery of Art and is quite old.  I was wondering if it was painted by Stuart? 

Me: Thanks for your message.  The picture does look old, and the style of the portrait is very clearly G. Stuart.  But the quality doesn't seem to be present; the body looks odd...and it would help if I could have a clearer vision of the face.  But from this vantage point it looks like a novice painter painted a portrait using Stuart's style!  Ask yourself if you are super impressed with the quality of the face... Beth 

Norma: I am super impressed by the whole painting.  Why would anyone at that time want a picture of Thornton? I thought Stuart wanted to improve the painting.
Thankyou for responding.

Hi Norma, Re: Why would anyone at that time want a picture of Thornton?? I checked the Park volumes and there is a Dr. William Thornton,..... Dr William Thornton lived from 1761-1828.  Your painting does not match accurately the Stuart painting of Thornton that is in the volumes, but there is enough resemblance to make me think that the artist, whoever it was, was doing another portrait of the doctor in the Stuart style.  The body in your portrait is too 'shallow', the lips too full. I will post your picture on my blog if that is ok, and put Dr W Thornton from the volumes on it too so you can compare.  [from original Stuart] the body is much fuller, the lips are thinner, there is a less "painted" look of the face.  I note that the info on the Dr. says that he was aminiature painter, and "copied some of Stuart's portraits.".....
Super interesting!  But it is clearly not an original Stuart~but a copy so old is very cool.

Norma: I am sure you are right- just wanted to make sure it wasn't valuable.  You can tell it is very old.  Won't bother you anymore and thanks so much Thornton designed our US Capitol.

done by the sitter himself Dr. William Thornton?

From Lawrence Park V II
Doctor William Thornton 1761-1828
William Thornton was of Quaker parentage and born on the Island of Jost Van Dyke, West Indies.  He studied medicine in Edinburgh but was also an accomplished architect and artist as well.  He designed the Philadelphia Library Building erected in 1790.  In 1794 he became Commissioner of Public Buildings in Washington DC, and in 1800 he drew the first plans for the United States Capitol Building.  He also assisted Thomas Jefferson with the plans for the University of Virginia buildings.  Col John Tayloe's Octagon House was built after his plans.  From 1802 until his death he was the first Chief of the Patent Office.  He also invented a flutter-wheel steamboat and accused Robert Fulton of having wrongfully deprived him of it.  As a miniature painter he was above the average and copied some of Stuart's portraits.  In 1790 he married Anna Maria Brodeau, daughter of Mrs. Ann Brodeau.

Portrait of Dr. William Thornton, Washington 1804
National Gallery of Art


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