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. 


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