Thomas Sully

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Thomas Sully
Thomas Sully.jpg
Thomas Sully in 1869
BornJune 19, 1783 (1783-06-19)
DiedNovember 5, 1872(1872-11-05) (aged 89)
OccupationPainter

Thomas Sully (June 19, 1783 November 5, 1872) was an American portrait painter. Born in Great Britain, he lived most of his life in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He painted in the style of Thomas Lawrence. His subjects included national political leaders, such as presidents Thomas Jefferson and John Quincy Adams, and General Marquis de Lafayette, and many leading musicians and composers.

Thomas Lawrence English portrait painter and the second president of the Royal Academy

Sir Thomas Lawrence PRA FRS was a leading English portrait painter and the fourth president of the Royal Academy.

Thomas Jefferson 3rd president of the United States

Thomas Jefferson was an American statesman, diplomat, lawyer, architect, and Founding Father who served as the third president of the United States from 1801 to 1809. Previously, he had served as the second vice president of the United States from 1797 to 1801. The principal author of the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson was a proponent of democracy, republicanism, and individual rights motivating American colonists to break from the Kingdom of Great Britain and form a new nation; he produced formative documents and decisions at both the state and national level.

John Quincy Adams 6th president of the United States

John Quincy Adams was an American statesman, diplomat, lawyer, and diarist who served as the sixth president of the United States from 1825 to 1829. He previously served as the eighth United States Secretary of State from 1817 to 1825. During his long diplomatic and political career, Adams also served as an ambassador, and represented Massachusetts as a United States Senator and as a member of the United States House of Representatives. He was the eldest son of John Adams, who served as the second US president from 1797 to 1801. Initially a Federalist like his father, he won election to the presidency as a member of the Democratic-Republican Party, and in the mid-1830s became affiliated with the Whig Party.

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In addition to portraits of wealthy patrons, he painted landscapes and historical pieces such as Passage of the Delaware. His work was adapted for use on United States coinage.

Life and career

Early life

Sully was born in Horncastle, Lincolnshire, England in 1783, to the actors Matthew Sully and Sarah Chester. [1] In March 1792, the Sullys and their nine children emigrated to Charleston, South Carolina, where Thomas’s uncle managed a theater. Sully made his first appearance in the theater as a tumbler at the age of 11 in Charleston. [2] After a brief apprenticeship to an insurance broker, who recognized his artistic talent, at about age 12 Sully began painting. He studied with his brother-in-law Jean Belzons (active 1794–1812), a French miniaturist, until they had a falling-out in 1799.

Lincolnshire County of England

Lincolnshire is a county in eastern England, with a long coastline on the North Sea to the east. It borders Norfolk to the south east, Cambridgeshire to the south, Rutland to the south west, Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire to the west, South Yorkshire to the north west, and the East Riding of Yorkshire to the north. It also borders Northamptonshire in the south for just 20 yards (18 m), England's shortest county boundary. The county town is the city of Lincoln, where the county council has its headquarters.

England Country in north-west Europe, part of the United Kingdom

England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Wales to the west and Scotland to the north-northwest. The Irish Sea lies west of England and the Celtic Sea lies to the southwest. England is separated from continental Europe by the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south. The country covers five-eighths of the island of Great Britain, which lies in the North Atlantic, and includes over 100 smaller islands, such as the Isles of Scilly and the Isle of Wight.

Charleston, South Carolina City in the United States

Charleston is the oldest and largest city in the U.S. state of South Carolina, the county seat of Charleston County, and the principal city in the Charleston–North Charleston–Summerville Metropolitan Statistical Area. The city lies just south of the geographical midpoint of South Carolina's coastline and is located on Charleston Harbor, an inlet of the Atlantic Ocean formed by the confluence of the Ashley, Cooper, and Wando rivers. Charleston had an estimated population of 134,875 in 2017. The estimated population of the Charleston metropolitan area, comprising Berkeley, Charleston, and Dorchester counties, was 761,155 residents in 2016, the third-largest in the state and the 78th-largest metropolitan statistical area in the United States.

He returned to Richmond to learn "miniature and device painting" from his elder brother Lawrence Sully (1769–1804). After Lawrence's death, Thomas Sully married his brother's widow, Sarah (Annis) Sully. He took on the rearing of Lawrence's children. He and Sarah had an additional nine children together. Among the children were Alfred Sully, Mary Chester Sully (who married Sully's protégé, the painter John Neagle), Jane Cooper Sully (who married a Mr. Darley), Blanche Sully, Rosalie Sully, and Thomas Wilcocks Sully.

Alfred Sully American military officer

Alfred Sully, was a military officer during the American Civil War and during the Indian Wars on the frontier. He was also a noted actor, having acted in the very same play that Lincoln went to see shortly before his death.

John Neagle American artist

John Neagle was a fashionable American painter, primarily of portraits, during the first half of the 19th century in Philadelphia.

Rosalie Sully American painter

Rosalie Sully was a nineteenth century American painter who had a lesbian relationship with Charlotte Cushman.

Sully was one of the founding members of The Musical Fund Society. He painted the portraits of many of the musicians and composers who were also members.

The Musical Fund Society is one of the oldest musical societies in the United States founded in February 1820 by Benjamin Carr, Raynor Taylor, George Schetky and Benjamin Cross, and the painter Thomas Sully. Its first public concert on April 22, 1821 and featured Beethoven’s 2nd Symphony.

Painting

Passage of the Delaware, 1819, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston 1819 Passage OfThe Delaware byThomasSully MFABoston.jpeg
Passage of the Delaware, 1819, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Plaque on the former home of Thomas Sully in Society Hill ThomasSullyHousePlaque.jpg
Plaque on the former home of Thomas Sully in Society Hill

Sully became a professional painter at age 18 in 1801. He studied portrait painting under Gilbert Stuart in Boston for three weeks. After some time in Virginia with his brother Lawrence, Sully moved to New York.

Gilbert Stuart American painter

Gilbert Charles Stuart was an American painter from Rhode Island who is widely considered one of America's foremost portraitists. His best known work is the unfinished portrait of George Washington that is sometimes referred to as The Athenaeum, begun in 1796. Stuart retained the portrait and used it to paint 130 copies which he sold for $100 each. The image of George Washington featured in the painting has appeared on the United States one-dollar bill for more than a century and on various U.S. postage stamps of the 19th century and early 20th century.

Boston Capital city of Massachusetts, United States

Boston is the capital and most populous city of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in the United States. The city proper covers 48 square miles (124 km2) with an estimated population of 685,094 in 2017, 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-largest in the United States.

Virginia State of the United States of America

Virginia, officially the Commonwealth of Virginia, is a state in the Southeastern and Mid-Atlantic regions of the United States located between the Atlantic Coast and the Appalachian Mountains. Virginia is nicknamed the "Old Dominion" due to its status as the first English colonial possession established in mainland North America and "Mother of Presidents" because eight U.S. presidents were born there, more than any other state. The geography and climate of the Commonwealth are shaped by the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Chesapeake Bay, which provide habitat for much of its flora and fauna. The capital of the Commonwealth is Richmond; Virginia Beach is the most populous city, and Fairfax County is the most populous political subdivision. The Commonwealth's estimated population as of 2018 is over 8.5 million.

He settled in Philadelphia in 1806, where he resided for the remainder of his life. In 1809 Sully traveled to London for nine months of study under the American Benjamin West, who had established his painting career in Great Britain.

London Capital of the United Kingdom

London is the capital and largest city of both England and the United Kingdom. Standing on the River Thames in the south-east of England, at the head of its 50-mile (80 km) estuary leading to the North Sea, London has been a major settlement for two millennia. Londinium was founded by the Romans. The City of London, London's ancient core − an area of just 1.12 square miles (2.9 km2) and colloquially known as the Square Mile − retains boundaries that follow closely its medieval limits. The City of Westminster is also an Inner London borough holding city status. Greater London is governed by the Mayor of London and the London Assembly.

Benjamin West 18th and 19th-century American painter

Benjamin West was a British North American history painter around and after the time of the American War of Independence and the Seven Years' War. He was the second president of the Royal Academy in London, serving from 1792 to 1805 and 1806 to 1820. He was offered a knighthood by the British Crown, but declined it, believing that he should instead be made a peer. He said that "Art is the representation of human beauty, ideally perfect in design, graceful and noble in attitude."

Sully's 1824 portraits of John Quincy Adams, who became President within the year, and the general Marquis de Lafayette, appear to have brought him widespread recognition. His Adams portrait is held in the National Gallery of Art, Washington. Many notable Americans of the day had their portraits painted by him. In 1837–1838 he was in London to paint Queen Victoria at the request of Philadelphia's St. George's Society. His daughter Blanche assisted him as the Queen's "stand-in", modeling the Queen's costume when she was not available. One of Sully's portraits of Thomas Jefferson is owned by the Jefferson Literary and Debating Society at the University of Virginia and hangs in that school's rotunda. Another Jefferson portrait, this one head-to-toe, hangs at West Point, as does his portrait of General Alexander Macomb.

Sully's records say that he produced 2,631 paintings from 1801, most of which are currently in the United States. His style resembles that of Thomas Lawrence. Though best known as a portrait painter, Sully also made historical pieces and landscapes. An example of the former is the 1819 Passage of the Delaware, now in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. The Sully painting, Portrait of Anna and Harriet Coleman, was sold on September 28, 2013 for $145,000 by John M. Hess Auction Service Inc. of Manheim, Pennsylvania.

Death and legacy

Grave marker for Thomas Sully and his wife Sarah SullyMarker.jpg
Grave marker for Thomas Sully and his wife Sarah

Sully died in Philadelphia on November 5, 1872. He is buried in Laurel Hill Cemetery there. His book Hints to Young Painters was published posthumously after his death.

His paintings are held and displayed permanently in many of the world's leading art museums. Several of Sully's portraits hang in the chambers of the Dialectic and Philanthropic societies of the University of North Carolina. Portraits, including that of President James K. Polk, were commissioned of notable alumni from the Societies. The obverse design of the United States Seated Liberty coinage, which began with the Gobrecht dollar in 1836 and lasted until 1891, was based on his work.

His son, Alfred Sully, served as a brigadier general in the Union Army during the American Civil War. Through Alfred, Thomas Sully is the great-grandfather of Ella Deloria, the noted Yankton Sioux ethnologist and writer; and the great-great-grandfather of Vine Deloria, Jr., Standing Rock Sioux scholar and author of Custer Died For Your Sins (1969), an American Indian civil-rights manifesto.

Sully was a great-uncle of Thomas Sully (1855–1939), the New Orleans-based architect.

Charles Henry Lanneau of South Carolina was his student; he became a portrait painter and Civil War artist.

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References

  1. Barratt, Carrie Rebora. "Thomas Sully (1783–1872) and Queen Victoria". metmuseum.org. Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Retrieved 7 December 2014.
  2. "Thomas Sully: Portraiture, Fancy, Theatricality and Commerce in Art in 19th-Century America".
  3. "Lady with a Harp: Eliza Ridgely, 1818". National Gallery of Art . Retrieved 2008-02-05.[ permanent dead link ]