Tuesday, November 5, 2013
A Few Quirky, Folky Portraits of Early 19th-Century American Women
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.
Eastman reportedly was born in Loudon, New Hampshire, 75 miles northwest of Boston, Massachusetts. She married Dr. Daniel Baker in 1824.
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.
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.
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.
See: Ralph and Susanne Katz, "In Search of John Usher Parsons," Folk Art 30 (Spring 2005): 46-53.