Thomas Sully

Last updated

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

Thomas Sully (June 19, 1783 November 5, 1872) was a portrait painter in the United States. 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 United States presidents: Thomas Jefferson, John Quincy Adams, and Andrew Jackson, Revolutionary War hero General Marquis de Lafayette, and many leading musicians and composers. In addition to portraits of wealthy patrons, he painted landscapes and historical pieces such as the 1819 The Passage of the Delaware . His work was adapted for use on United States coinage.

Contents

Life and career

Early life

Sully was born in Horncastle, Lincolnshire, England in 1783 to 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 Thomas Wade West 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. Between 1801 and 1802, Sully lived in Norfolk, Virginia, the city from which his aunt Margaretta Sully West ran her theater and opera company. [3]


Career as a painter

The Passage of the Delaware, 1819, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston 1819 Passage OfThe Delaware byThomasSully MFABoston.jpeg
The 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, while living in Norfolk, Virginia, with his brother Lawrence. [4] By 1802, he and elder brother Lawrence Sully (1769–1804) changed their base to Richmond, Virginia, where they continued to work together. In 1805, Thomas Sully married his brother's widow, Sarah (Annis) Sully. He took on the rearing of Lawrence's children.

Sully moved to New York in 1806. The next year, he studied portrait painting under Gilbert Stuart in Boston for three weeks. By 1808, he had settled in Philadelphia, 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.[ citation needed ]

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.

Mrs. Robert Gilmor, Jr. (Sarah Reeve Ladson), 1823, Oil on canvas Thomas Sully, Mrs. Robert Gilmor, Jr. (Sarah Reeve Ladson), 1823, Oil on canvas.jpg
Mrs. Robert Gilmor, Jr. (Sarah Reeve Ladson), 1823, Oil on canvas

Sully's records say that he produced 2,631 paintings from 1801, most of which are currently in the United States.[ citation needed ] His style resembles that of Thomas Lawrence.(cf. Rilla Evelyn Jackman "AMERICAN ARTS" 1928 pg. 61)[ citation needed ] Though best known as a portrait painter, Sully also made historical pieces and landscapes. An example of the former is the 1819 The Passage of the Delaware , now in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Personal Life

Thomas and Sarah Sully had 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.[ citation needed ]

Professional Connections and Honors

Sully was one of the founding members of The Musical Fund Society in Philadelphia. [5] He painted the portraits of many of the musicians and composers who were also members. In 1835, Sully was elected a member of the American Philosophical Society. [6]

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 and was interred in Laurel Hill Cemetery. [7]

His book Hints to Young Painters was published posthumously.

His paintings are held and displayed permanently in many of the world's leading art museums. Two 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. The Sully painting Portrait of Anna and Harriet Coleman was sold at auction in 2013 for $145,000. [8]

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 Dakota ethnologist and writer; the great-grandfather of artist Mary Sully (also known as Susan Mabel Deloria, 1896–1963); [9] and the great-great-grandfather of Vine Deloria, Jr., Standing Rock Dakota 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.

The World War II Liberty Ship SS Thomas Sully was named in his honor.

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Visual art of the United States</span>

Visual art of the United States or American art is visual art made in the United States or by U.S. artists. Before colonization there were many flourishing traditions of Native American art, and where the Spanish colonized Spanish Colonial architecture and the accompanying styles in other media were quickly in place. Early colonial art on the East Coast initially relied on artists from Europe, with John White the earliest example. In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, artists primarily painted portraits, and some landscapes in a style based mainly on English painting. Furniture-makers imitating English styles and similar craftsmen were also established in the major cities, but in the English colonies, locally made pottery remained resolutely utilitarian until the 19th century, with fancy products imported.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Albert Bierstadt</span> German-American landscape painter (1830–1902)

Albert Bierstadt was a German-American painter best known for his lavish, sweeping landscapes of the American West. He joined several journeys of the Westward Expansion to paint the scenes. He was not the first artist to record the sites, but he was the foremost painter of them for the remainder of the 19th century.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Gilbert Stuart</span> American painter (1755–1828)

Gilbert Charles Stuart was an American painter from Rhode Island Colony who is widely considered one of America's foremost portraitists. His best-known work is an unfinished portrait of George Washington, begun in 1796, which is sometimes referred to as the Athenaeum Portrait. Stuart retained the portrait and used it to paint scores of copies that were commissioned by patrons in America and abroad. 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 postage stamps of the 19th century and early 20th century.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Charles Willson Peale</span> American painter (1741–1827)

Charles Willson Peale was an American painter, soldier, scientist, inventor, politician and naturalist. He is best remembered for his portrait paintings of leading figures of the American Revolution, and for establishing one of the first museums in the United States.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Rembrandt Peale</span> American artist and museum keeper (1778–1860)

Rembrandt Peale was an American artist and museum keeper. A prolific portrait painter, he was especially acclaimed for his likenesses of presidents George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. Peale's style was influenced by French Neoclassicism after a stay in Paris in his early thirties.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Richard Westall</span> English painter

Richard Westall was an English painter and illustrator of portraits, historical and literary events, best known for his portraits of Byron. He was also Queen Victoria's drawing master.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Nicolaes Maes</span> Dutch painter (1634–1693)

Nicolaes Maes was a Dutch painter known for his genre scenes, portraits, religious compositions and the occasional still life. A pupil of Rembrandt in Amsterdam, he returned to work in his native city of Dordrecht for 20 years. In the latter part of his career he returned to Amsterdam where he became the leading portrait painter of his time. Maes contributed to the development of genre painting in the Netherlands and was the most prominent portrait painter working in Amsterdam in the final three decades of the 17th century.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Robert Feke</span> American painter

Robert Feke was an American portrait painter born in Oyster Bay, Long Island, New York. According to art historian Richard Saunders, "Feke’s impact on the development of Colonial painting was substantial, and his pictures set a new standard by which the work of the next generation of aspiring Colonial artists was judged." In total, about 60 paintings by Feke survive, twelve of which are signed and dated.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Thomas Francis Dicksee</span> British artist

Thomas Francis Dicksee (1819–1895) was an English painter. He was a portraitist and painter of historical, genre subjects often inspired by the works of Shakespeare.

Robert Edge Pine was an English portrait and historical painter, born in London. He was the son of John Pine, the engraver and designer.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">John Partridge (artist)</span> British artist and portrait painter (1789–1872)

John Partridge was a British artist and portrait painter. Named 'portrait painter-extraordinary' to Queen Victoria, his pictures depict many of the notable figures of his time.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Henry Benbridge</span> American portrait painter (1743–1812)

Henry Benbridge was an early American portrait painter.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">George Gower</span> English painter

George Gower (c.1540–1596) was an English portrait painter who became Serjeant Painter to Queen Elizabeth I in 1581.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Gustavus Hesselius</span> Swedish-American painter (1682-1755)

Gustavus Hesselius was a Swedish-American painter. He was European trained and became a leading artist in the mid-Atlantic colonies during the first half of the eighteenth century. He was among the earliest portrait painters and organ builders in the United States. He was named to the Prince George's County Hall of Fame by the Prince George's County Historical Society.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Susan Macdowell Eakins</span> American photographer (1851–1938)

Susan Hannah Eakins was an American painter and photographer. Her works were first shown at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, where she was a student. She won the Mary Smith Prize there in 1879 and the Charles Toppan prize in 1882.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Joseph Wright (American painter)</span> American painter

Joseph Wright was an American portrait painter and sculptor. He painted life portraits of George Washington and Benjamin Franklin, and was a designer of early U.S. coinage. Wright was President Washington's original choice for Chief Engraver of the U.S. Mint, but died at age 37, before being confirmed to that position.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Barnett Samuel Marks</span> British painter

Barnett Samuel Marks R.C.A. was a Welsh-Jewish portrait painter who was also noted for his social realism paintings.

Conservation-restoration of Thomas Eakins <i>The Gross Clinic</i>

The conservation-restoration of Thomas Eakins' The Gross Clinic refers to the on-going conservation-restoration treatments of American painter Thomas Eakins' 1875 painting The Gross Clinic throughout the 20th and 21st centuries. These treatments are a testament to the changing methodologies undertaken in the field of paintings conservation.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Rosalie Sully</span> American painter

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

<i>The Passage of the Delaware</i> Painting by Thomas Sully

The Passage of the Delaware is a large, Neoclassical 1819 oil-on-canvas painting by Thomas Sully. With attention to historical accuracy, the painting depicts George Washington on horseback observing the troops of the American Revolutionary Army in the process of crossing the Delaware River prior to the surprise attacks on Hessian troops on December 26, 1776 at the Battle of Trenton. The image is intended to capture the moment prior to George Washington dismounting his horse and joining his army in crossing the Delaware River.

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 December 7, 2014.
  2. "Thomas Sully: Portraiture, Fancy, Theatricality and Commerce in Art in 19th-Century America".
  3. Rossheim, Beth (1981). Thomas Sully (1783-1872): Beginning Portraitist in Norfolk. p. 18, 48.
  4. Rossheim, Beth (1981). Thomas Sully (1783-1872): Beginning Portraitist in Norfolk.
  5. "Phono Archive". Archived from the original on March 28, 2008.
  6. "APS Member History". search.amphilsoc.org. Retrieved April 8, 2021.
  7. Association for Public Art
  8. "William Coleman Auction Results 9-28-13" (PDF). John M. Hess Auction Service Inc. Manheim, Pennsylvania.
  9. Deloria, Philip (2019). Becoming Mary Sully: Toward an American Indian Abstract. University of Washington Press. ISBN   9780295745046.
  10. "Lady with a Harp: Eliza Ridgely, 1818". National Gallery of Art. Archived from the original on August 6, 2012. Retrieved February 5, 2008.

Further reading