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					Colonial and Early American Art

        Compiled by
       Margo Thornbury
        October 2005

   For educational purposes
The pineapple motif came to
symbolize prosperity and
hospitality since only the very
wealthy could afford to have it
shipped in from South America.


                                  Pineapple armillary – a
                                  spherical model of the
                                  universe first used by early
                                  Greek astronomers. Relative
                                  positions are represented by
                                  intersecting metal rings.
                                        The woodcut artist John
                                        Foster was a graduate of
                                        Harvard (1667), set up
                                        Boston's first press in 1675.

                                        The portrait of Mather is
                                        thought to be the first
                                        woodcut printed in America
                                        around 1670.

Richard Mather, woodcut portrait by John Foster
          Gravestone of Sarah Baker, about 1700,
             Copp's Hill Burial Ground, Boston

   Skulls, skeletons, coffins, and candle flames were common
   images in gravestone carvings of the late seventeenth and
                    early eighteenth centuries.

The skull represents the brevity of life and the wings represent
                         the after life

    The seventeenth-century painters were also called upon to
    create death's heads and other symbols of mourning for
    funeral processions of prominent figures.
Elizabeth Clarke Freake (Mrs.
John Freake) and Baby Mary,
about 1671 and 1674.
Artist unknown. Elizabethan style.
Untrained artist– Folk Art

 Artists in colonial America
 received little formal education in
 art and were considered to be in
 the same social category as

 Most art from this period appears
 flat and two-dimensional because
 the artists did not have sufficient
 training in linear perspective.

 It was also the fashion not to
 smile in portraits.
                                                  Massachusetts law stated
                  The Puritan ideals
                                                  that only the very wealthy
                                                  could display extravagant
                                                  clothing; sleeve slashes,
                                                  could only be worn if
                                                  income exceeded 200
                                                  pounds per year.

                                                  Childhood was not
                                                  considered a distinct time in
                                                  life separate from adulthood.
                                                  Children began to dress as
                                                  adults as soon as they were
                                                  six years of age.

                                                    Portrait Clues: a silver-
        rose, a symbol of innocence                 topped cane and glove.
                                                    a fan, a coral necklace
                                                    to ward off childhood
The Mason Children: David, Joanna, and Abigail,     diseases, a rose for
1670                                                innocence.
Attributed to the Freake-Gibbs Painter
         Thomas Smith
  American, seventeenth century
    Self-Portrait, about 1680
                                              The battle scene in the
                                              background suggests that Smith
                                              was a mariner and perhaps a
                                              naval officer.

                                              Puritan attitudes toward life and
                                              death are contrasted in the soft
                                              pink skin and the gray skull.

                                              This painting marks a shift in
                                              American art from the Elizabethan
                                              to the baroque style using
                        ¾ view                light and shadow to show objects
                                              in space, such as the head and
                                              wrinkles, the folds of the lace
                                              neck cloth,

This painting is the only 17th century New England painting that is clearly
linked to a known painter and the earliest American self-portrait.
                   Joseph Badger
                   Captain-Lieutenant John Larrabee,
                   c. 1750
                   83 1/8 x 50 1/4 in.
                   Can you find the:
                         black cannon
                         gold handle of a small sword
                         ships at sea
                      Larrabee was the commander of
Full length view
                      Castle William in Boston.
                   York served Larrabee from the late 1730s
                   until 1762, when his master died. Larrabee’s
                   will freed York and granted him a suit of
                   mourning clothes. It also stated that if York
                   should become sick or unable to sustain
                   himself, "I Order that he be Supported out of
                   my Estate."
                                               John Singleton Copley is considered
                                               the greatest American portraitist of
                                               the eighteenth century. Copley was
                                               the first American artist to succeed
                                               in creating the illusion of a three-
                                               dimensional reality on canvas.

                                               Portrait symbols: a scallop shell
                                               in a stream of water, symbolism
                                               borrowed from an English print.
                                               The shell is an attribute of Venus,
                                               the Roman goddess of love and
                                               beauty, while the water
                                               symbolizes life and purity.

                                                How do you stand? Good
                                                posture still indicates a good
                                                upbringing and a positive self-
Mary Turner Sargent, 1763                       image.
John Singleton Copley (1738-1815)
    She sat for this painting "fifteen or sixteen times! Six hours at a time!"
John Singleton Copley
American, 1737-1815
Portrait of Mrs. George Turner, 1765

                                       While the word
                                       limner has been
                                       used to
                                       characterize artists
                                       working in this
                                       style, that term
                                       was reserved in
                                       the seventeenth
                                       century for
Famous engraving by
Paul Revere - "The
Bloody Massacre
perpetrated in King
Street" in Boston, 1770.

To stir up anti-British
sentiment with the
Paul Revere rushed to
get his print to press.

What inaccurate clues
do you see?
(No snow, blue sky at
night, soldiers in a line,
Crispus Attucks is
shown to be white.
  Unidentified artist 18th century Landscape (View of a Town), after 1753

  This overmantel demonstrates how eighteenth-century American decorative
painters composed individual paintings from multiple sources, including imported
              prints, personal experience, and the imagination.
    The painting contrasts work and leisure, as well as town and country.
                                    Portrait clues:
                                    Wealthy or Poor?
                                    Sailor or Captain?

                                    Artist trained or untrained?

Mordecai Gist, ca. 1774
Charles Willson Peale (1741-1827)
Rococo style

    Joseph Blackburn, Isaac Winslow and His Family, 1755,

The group portrait was still uncommon in colonial America.
John Singleton Copley
John Bours, about 1760–62

Bours wanted Copley to
represent him as one
who cared more about
the pursuits of the mind
than the latest fashions.
                             Mood – pensive
                            (deep in thought)
                            The Savage Family, about 1779

Edward Savage (1761–1817)
                                             During this time period
                                             photography was not
                                             mass marketed and
                                             paintings were the main
                                             way people had their
                                             likenesses made.

                                             Working class people
                                             could not afford to pay a
                                             great deal to the
                                             painters, so to make the
                                             job go faster the artists
                                             would paint the bodies in
                                             their studios and then fill
                                             in the heads. Often this
                                             made the portrait look
John Singleton Copley “Thomas Aston Coffin”
James Peale Still Life, 1825

The rounded shapes of the apples, grapes, and bowl are
set in contrast with the jagged edges of the grape leaves

                         Asymmetrical balance
A collaborative art form, sign making required sign painters to work
with woodworkers and blacksmiths to provide the sign board and
framing elements.

         Sign for Rose’s Inn, circa 1813. Coventry, Connecticut.
John James Audubon
American, 1785-1851
Iceland or Jer Falcon (Plate 366
from the Birds of America), 1826-
Ralph Earl American, 1751-1801
Portrait of Two Brothers
Baldwin Gardiner    1791-1869

  Baldwin Gardiner
  Neo-Classical Tea or Coffee Urn
  “Folk art" is most often defined as art that is created by individuals who
   were not academically trained (although they may have acquired their
     skills through apprenticeship, observation, or informal learning).

Ambrose Andrews (ca. 1801-1877), The Children of Nathan Starr, 1835.
                       Rufus Hathaway (1770-1822) was
John Bradley (active   only twenty years old when he
1832-1847), Emma       painted Lady with her Pets (Molly
Homan, ca. 1844,       Wales Forbes), one of the best-
                       known portraits by an American
                       country painter
    Edward and Sarah
    Rutter, ca. 1805
    Joshua Johnson
    (American, ca. 1763–
    ca. 1824)

Joshua Johnson is the earliest
African-American painter in the
United States with a recognized
body of work.

Johnson was brought to
Baltimore in the 1790s as a slave
for a family that was related to
Charles Willson Peale, the
celebrated portrait painter. Within
a decade Johnson became a
"freeman of color" and was
earning his living as a portrait
An itinerant artist active in towns along the Massachusetts-
Connecticut border, Phillips painted hundreds of portraits over his long
career. Phillips was an untrained rural painter,

                    Mrs. Mayer and Daughter, 1835–40
                    Ammi Phillips (1788–1865)
Unidentified artist, Boy
with Blond Hair, ca. 1840-
                                  Engravings of European paintings
                                  were widely available in the
                                  colonies and were a chief source
                                  of information on European art for
                                  American artists until the
                                  beginning of the nineteenth

                                  Copying European art styles was
                                  an accepted practice by which
                                  artists could demonstrate their
                                  awareness of the trends and
                                  techniques used abroad:
                                  *the classical column
                                  *gathered drapery
                                  All techniques borrowed from
                                  published prints of European
Grizzell Eastwick Apthorp, 1748   nobility.
Robert Feke (1707-1752)
Sign Boards

              Apothecary mortar and pestle
Coryell’s Ferry 1776 by Joseph Pickett

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