Tuesday, November 5, 2013

A Few Quirky, Folky Portraits of Early 19th-Century American Women


attributed to Emily Eastman (Loudon, New Hampshire, 1804-? ) Woman in Veil c 1825


Several New England artists shared a unique painting style during the 1820s-30s. Women depicted by these artists exhibit several similar characteristics - pale, sculptural faces; prominent thin, delicately arched eyebrows; small bowed mouths; & elaborate classical Greek hairstyles of tight curls intertwined with jewelry, flowers, & other adornments.  The paintings are usually watercolors.  The artists paint strong features, sharply defined, with arched, curved eyebrows.  The watercolors are similar to fashion plates appearing in magazines such as Ackerman’s Repository of Arts, Literature, Commerce, Manufactures, Fashions & Politics, published in London in 1809 through 1829.

Emily Eastman was one of these painters who was also from New Hampshire.  Between about 1820 & 1830, Eastman completed several portraits of women, drawn in graphite and then completed in watercolors, in high fashion dress with tightly curled hair. An issue of the contemporary The Lady’s Magazine, described popular fashion of the period,  “Our fair females are covered with transparent shawls, which float and flutter over their shoulders and upon their bosoms, which are seen through them. With gauze veils, which conceal half of the face to pique our curiosity.” A likeness of a young girl is also included here.


attributed to Emily Eastman (Loudon, New Hampshire, 1804-? ) Lady's Coiffure with Flowers and Jewels


Eastman reportedly was born in Loudon, New Hampshire, 75 miles northwest of Boston, Massachusetts. She married Dr. Daniel Baker in 1824.


attributed to Emily Eastman (Loudon, New Hampshire, 1804-? ) Feathers and Pearls


Eastman rarely signed her paintings, but those that are unsigned display similarities such as prominent thin, delicately arched eyebrows; small bowed mouths; & elaborate coiffures of tight curls intertwined with jewelry, flowers, & other adornments.


attributed to Emily Eastman (Loudon, New Hampshire, 1804-? ) Girl Bedecked with Flowers


attributed to Emily Eastman (Loudon, New Hampshire, 1804-? ) Attributed to Eastman - Woman Holding a Bible


attributed to Emily Eastman (Loudon, New Hampshire, 1804-? ) Lady's Coiffure with Spray of Wheat and Wild Flowers


attributed to Emily Eastman (Loudon, New Hampshire, 1804-? ) Young Woman with Flowers in Her Hair c 1820-30

attributed to Emily Eastman (Loudon, New Hampshire, 1804-? )  Young Lady in a Gold Colored gown, her hair dressed with flowers and pearls c 1820


attributed to Emily Eastman (Loudon, New Hampshire, 1804-? ) Girl in Blue Dress


attributed to Emily Eastman (Loudon, New Hampshire, 1804- )


Maine Artist A. Ellis, Lady with a Nosegay 1830


Maine Artist A. Ellis, Diantha Atwood Gordon 1832


attributed to John Usher Parsons (American artist, 1806-1874) Woman in Pink c 1835-38  


Parsons received his early education at Latin schools in Parsonsfield, Maine, where he was born, and in nearby Effingham, New Hampshire.  Parsons graduated from Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine. He was ordained in New York City in 1831, & became a preacher traveling to Indiana, Wisconsin, & Kansas. A dozen or so paintings by Parsons date to the period just after his return to the East Coast. Most are of subjects who lived in the area around Parsonsfield & in New Bedford, Massachusetts, where Parsons was minister for several years. The works appear to have been executed during a four-year span from 1834 to 1838.


attributed to John Usher Parsons (American artist, 1806-1874) Porcupina Van Allen


Unknown Vermont Artist. Woman in a Rose Dress c 1805-1815


Almira Wheaton (American, 1804-1881)  Lady in a Straw Hat 1824-1825


I can only find 2 paintings by Almira Wheaton Saben, who appears in the 1860 US census, she was then living in Winchester, Cheshire County, New Hampshire. She was born September 9, 1804 in Vermont. Her father was Reuben Wheaton. She married Mowry Saben (1801-1880) on February 5, 1835, in Winchester, Cheshire County, New Hampshire. She died there on May 11, 1881. She had 6 children between 1835 and 1844. All of them died by 1845. After that she had 2 children, Levi born in 1844-1912, and Mary born in 1847-1926. Son Levi married Mary A Tolman on January 1, 1869. They had a son Alfred Levi Saben in December of 1869-1930, a son Delano Mowry Saben in 1879-1947, & a daughter Laura Emma in 1882-1964.


Almira Wheaton (American artist, 1804-1881)  Possibly painted as an assignment for a drawing class. Each on paper, 22 1/4 x 18 1/2 and 23 x 18 inches, sight. The first with label on reverse inscribed "Painted or drawn/ by Almira Wheaton Saben/ my great grandmother."


See: Ralph and Susanne Katz, "In Search of John Usher Parsons," Folk Art 30 (Spring 2005): 46-53.