Thomas Smith was a seventeenth-century American artist and mariner. He is best known for the self-portrait that he painted c. 1680, which (according to the portrait's owner, the Worcester Art Museum) is 'the only seventeenth-century New England portrait by an identified artist and the earliest extant American self-portrait'.
An artist is a person engaged in an activity related to creating art, practicing the arts, or demonstrating an art. The common usage in both everyday speech and academic discourse is a practitioner in the visual arts only. The term is often used in the entertainment business, especially in a business context, for musicians and other performers. "Artiste" is a variant used in English only in this context; this use is becoming rare. Use of the term to describe writers, for example, is valid, but less common, and mostly restricted to contexts like criticism.
A sailor, seaman, mariner, or seafarer is a person who works aboard a watercraft as part of its crew, and may work in any one of a number of different fields that are related to the operation and maintenance of a ship.
A self-portrait is a representation of an artist that is drawn, painted, photographed, or sculpted by that artist. Although self-portraits have been made since the earliest times, it is not until the Early Renaissance in the mid-15th century that artists can be frequently identified depicting themselves as either the main subject, or as important characters in their work. With better and cheaper mirrors, and the advent of the panel portrait, many painters, sculptors and printmakers tried some form of self-portraiture. Portrait of a Man in a Turban by Jan van Eyck of 1433 may well be the earliest known panel self-portrait. He painted a separate portrait of his wife, and he belonged to the social group that had begun to commission portraits, already more common among wealthy Netherlanders than south of the Alps. The genre is venerable, but not until the Renaissance, with increased wealth and interest in the individual as a subject, did it become truly popular.
Little is known about Smith's life. He lived in Boston, and is believed to be the same Thomas Smith who was commissioned by Harvard College on 2 June 1680 to produce a portrait of the Puritan theologian William Ames.Because several Thomas Smiths were active in Boston in the late seventeenth century, it is very difficult to identify other contemporary references to persons of that name with the artist. Smith is assumed to have been a mariner and a Puritan based on his self-portrait, which can be traced back to Smith's granddaughter, Catherina Mears Dexter (1701–1797).
Boston is the capital and most populous city of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in the United States, as well as the 21st most populous city in the United States. The city proper covers 48 square miles (124 km2) with an estimated population of 694,583 in 2018, making it also the most populous city in New England. Boston is the seat of Suffolk County as well, although the county government was disbanded on July 1, 1999. The city is the economic and cultural anchor of a substantially larger metropolitan area known as Greater Boston, a metropolitan statistical area (MSA) home to a census-estimated 4.8 million people in 2016 and ranking as the tenth-largest such area in the country. As a combined statistical area (CSA), this wider commuting region is home to some 8.2 million people, making it the sixth most populous in the United States.
Harvard College is the undergraduate liberal arts college of Harvard University. Founded in 1636 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, it is the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States and one of the most prestigious in the world.
William Ames was an English Protestant divine, philosopher, and controversialist. He spent much time in the Netherlands, and is noted for his involvement in the controversy between the Calvinists and the Arminians.
Smith's style has similarities with English and Dutch Golden Age painting, such as his expressive use of light and shadow. The sitter is shown seated on a chair with maroon upholstery and studs. Smith wears a typically Puritan dark coat and lace jabot.A maroon curtain and golden tassel appear in the top-right corner, lending a sense of depth to the portrait. From a window in the top-left corner is depicted a naval battle between Dutch and English forces and an unidentified enemy. Beneath them, a fortification is shown flying two red flags, one of which has three white crescents. The image may well refer to a significant event in Smith's career. The skull, a memento mori, has unrealistically round eye sockets like those found on contemporary funerary engravings in New England.
Dutch Golden Age painting is the painting of the Dutch Golden Age, a period in Dutch history roughly spanning the 17th century, during and after the later part of the Eighty Years' War (1568–1648) for Dutch independence.
A memento mori is an artistic or symbolic reminder of the inevitability of death. "The expression 'memento mori' developed with the growth of Christianity, which emphasized Heaven, Hell, and salvation of the soul in the afterlife."
Beneath the skull in the bottom-left corner is a piece of paper that contains an eight-line poem:
Why why should I the World be minding
therin a World of Evils Finding.
- Then Farwell World: Farwell thy Jarres
- thy Joies thy Toies thy Wiles thy Warrs
Truth Sounds Retreat: I am not forye.
- The Eternal Drawes to him my heart
- By Faith (which can thy Force Subvert)
To Crowne me (after Grace) with Glory.
The monogram T. S. led critics to assume that Smith composed the verses, which describe the speaker's resignation from the world's troubles in order to seek divine solace. In fact, the poem is Josuah Sylvester's translation of a French devotional poem by Simon Goulart.Roger B. Stein finds that 'the poem is the central organizing element, the key to the picture—to its design, to the relationship of its parts to one another, and to its meaning both as individual work and as an artefact within its larger culture'.
Josuah Sylvester was an English poet.
Simon Goulart was a French Reformed theologian, humanist and poet.
Five other portraits have been attributed to Smith. Major Thomas Savage (1679) and Mrs Richard Patteshall and Child (1679) are both owned by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.Captain Richard Patteshall (private collection) was meant to hang with the portrait of his wife. Captain George Curwin (c. 1675) is owned by the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts. The sitter of Portrait of a Man, probably Sir George Downing (1624–1684) has also been identified as Elisha Hutchinson.
The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Massachusetts, is the fifth largest museum in the United States. It contains more than 450,000 works of art, making it one of the most comprehensive collections in the Americas. It is home to 8,161 paintings, second most only to the Metropolitan Museum in New York among American museums. With more than 1.2 million visitors a year, it is the 52nd most visited art museum in the world as of 2019.
The Peabody Essex Museum (PEM) in Salem, Massachusetts, is a successor to the East India Marine Society, established in 1799. It combines the collections of the former Peabody Museum of Salem and the Essex Institute. PEM is the oldest continuously operating museum in the United States and holds one of the major collections of Asian art in the United States. Its total holdings include about 1.3 million pieces, as well as twenty-two historic buildings.
Anders Leonard Zorn was one of Sweden's foremost artists. He obtained international success as a painter, sculptor, and etcher.
Dirck Jaspersz. van Baburen was a Dutch painter and one of the Utrecht Caravaggisti.
Simon Bradstreet was a colonial magistrate, businessman, diplomat, and the last governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Arriving in Massachusetts on the Winthrop Fleet in 1630, Bradstreet was almost constantly involved in the politics of the colony but became its governor only in 1679. He served on diplomatic missions and as agent to the crown in London, and also served as a commissioner to the New England Confederation. He was politically comparatively moderate, arguing minority positions in favor of freedom of speech and for accommodation of the demands of King Charles II following his restoration to the throne.
Joseph Rodefer DeCamp was an American painter and educator.
Charles Sheeler was an American painter and commercial photographer. He is recognized as one of the founders of American modernism, developing a "quasi-photographic" style of painting known as Precisionism and becoming one of the master photographers of the 20th century.
James Browning Wyeth is a contemporary American realist painter, son of Andrew Wyeth, and grandson of N.C. Wyeth. He was raised in Chadds Ford Township, Pennsylvania, and is artistic heir to the Brandywine School tradition - painters who worked in the rural Brandywine River area of Delaware and Pennsylvania, portraying its people, animals, and landscape.
Gonzales Coques was a Flemish painter of portraits and history paintings. Because of his artistic proximity to and emulation with Anthony van Dyck he received the nickname de kleine van Dyck. Coques also worked as an art dealer.
Cornelis de Vos was a Flemish painter, draughtsman and art dealer. He was one of the leading portrait painters in Antwerp and is best known for his sensitive portraits, in particular of children and families. He was also successful in other genres including history, religious and genre painting. He was a regular collaborator with Rubens.
Hezekiah Augur was an early American sculptor and inventor. He was a self-taught sculptor and, unlike many other 19th-century American sculptors, did not travel to Europe, but spent his entire career in New Haven.
Jonathan Leo Fairbanks is an American artist and expert of American arts and antiques. Fairbanks created the American Decorative Arts and Sculpture department at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and served as the Curator of the department from 1970-99.
The Puritan culture of the New England colonies of the seventeenth century was influenced by Calvinist theology, which believed in a "just, almighty God," and a lifestyle of pious, consecrated actions. The Puritans participated in their own forms of recreational activity, including visual arts, literature, and music. The Puritans were educated and literate, and their culture was broadly based in the arts and languages.
John Wollaston was an English painter of portraits who was active in the British colonies in North America for much of his career. He was one of a handful of painters to introduce the English Rococo style to the American colonies.
Joseph Badger was a portrait artist in Boston, Massachusetts, in the 18th century. He was born in Charlestown, Massachusetts, to tailor Stephen Badger and Mercy Kettell. He "began his career as a house-painter and glazier, and ... throughout his life continued this work, besides painting signs, hatchments and other heraldic devices, in order to eke out a livelihood when orders for portraits slackened." In 1731 he married Katharine Felch; they moved to Boston around 1733. He was a member of the Brattle Street Church. He died in Boston in May, 1765, when "taken with an apoplectic fit as he was walking in his garden, and expired in a few minutes after." Works by Badger are in the collections of the Worcester Art Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, and Historic New England's Phillips House, Salem, Mass.
Charles Apthorp (1698–1758) was an English-born merchant and slave trader in 18th-century Boston, in the colonial Province of Massachusetts Bay. He ran his import business from Merchants Row, and "in his day he was called the richest man in Boston." He acted for the British government, and supported King's Chapel.
Frank Hill Smith (1842–1904) was an American artist and interior designer based in Boston, Massachusetts. He painted landscapes and figures; and designed wall frescos, stage curtains, stained-glass windows, and other décor. Among his works are ceiling frescoes in the Representatives Hall in the Massachusetts State House.
Jeremiah Dummer was the first American-born silversmith, whose works are today highly valued, two items of his having sold in 2004 and 2007 both for $204,000. He was also noted as a portrait painter and as an engraver, who created the first paper currency in Connecticut Colony. His son Jeremiah Jr. was involved with the foundation of Yale University.
Helen M. Knowlton (1832-1918) was an American artist, art instructor and author. She taught in Boston from 1871 until the mid-1910s, when she was in her 70s. Her instructor and later employer, William Morris Hunt, was the subject of a portrait she made and several books; She is considered his principal biographer.
Adelaide Cole Chase was an American painter of portraits and still lifes. She was a member of the Art Students' Association.