Saturday, November 30, 2013
The Boston Tea Party, December 17, 1773
Victory in the French and Indian War was costly for the British. At the war's conclusion in 1763, King George III and his government looked to taxing the American colonies as a way of recouping their war costs. They were also looking for ways to reestablish control over the colonial governments that had become increasingly independent while the Crown was distracted by the war. Royal ineptitude compounded the problem. A series of actions including the Stamp Act (1765), the Townsend Acts (1767) and the Boston Massacre (1770) agitated the colonists, straining relations with the mother country. But it was the Crown's attempt to tax tea that spurred the colonists to action and laid the groundwork for the American Revolution.
On Tuesday last the body of the people of this and all the adjacent towns, and others from the distance of twenty miles, assembled at the old south meeting-house, to inquire the reason of the delay in sending the ship Dartmouth, with the East-India Tea back to London; and having found that the owner had not taken the necessary steps for that purpose, they enjoin'd him at his peril to demand of the collector of the customs a clearance for the ship, and appointed a committee of ten to see it perform'd; after which they adjourn'd to the Thursday following ten o'clock.
They then met and being inform'd by Mr. Rotch, that a clearance was refus'd him, they enjoye'd him immediately to enter a protest and apply to the governor for a pass port by the castle, and adjourn'd again till three o'clock for the same day. At which time they again met and after waiting till near sunset Mr. Rotch came in and inform'd them that he had accordingly enter'd his protest and waited on the governor for a pass, but his excellency told him he could not consistent with his duty grant it until his vessel was qualified. The people finding all their efforts to preserve the property of the East India company and return it safely to London, frustrated by the sea consignees, the collector of the customs and the governor of the province, DISSOLVED their meeting.--But, BEHOLD what followed!
A number of brave & resolute men, determined to do all in their power to save their country from the ruin which their enemies had plotted, in less than four hours, emptied every chest of tea on board the three ships commanded by the captains Hall, Bruce, and Coffin, amounting to 342 chests, into the sea!! without the least damage done to the ships or any other property. The matters and owners are well pleas'd that their ships are thus clear'd; and the people are almost universally congratulating each other on this happy event. Boston Gazette December 20, 1773
The Boston Tea Party was an act of direct action protest by the American colonists against the British Government in which they destroyed many crates of tea belonging to the British East India Company and dumped it into the Boston Harbor. The incident, which took place on December 16, 1773, was a major catalyst of the American Revolution and remains an iconic event of American history.
Sunday, November 17, 2013
Cosmo Alexander (1724-1772) Self Portrait c 1747
Cosmo Alexander (1724-1772) was born in Aberdeen, Scotland, the son of Catholic portrait painter & engraver John Alexander (1690-1765) and the great grandson of George Jameson (c.1587-1644), whom Horace Walpole called "the Vandyke of Scotland."
1745-50s Cosmo Alexander (1724-1772.) Portrait of a Jacobite Lady.
Alexander was so staunchly committed to the Jacobite cause, that he had to flee Scotland for participating in the 1745 Rising. After the disasterous Jacobite defeat at Culloden, he sought refuge in nurturing, sympathetic, artistic Rome between 1747-1751. He carried with him a letter of introduction to the Jacobite court declaring that he was "a lad of genius in painting."
1770 Cosmo Alexander (1724-1772). Margaret Stiles Manning.
From that point on, Alexander studied art & painted portraits of exiled Catholic leaders including "Bonnie" Prince Charles Edward Stuart. He continued studing in Livorno & Paris in 1751-52, before returning to London to live in a house he would soon inherit from architect James Gibbs (1674-1754), who was also a Catholic born in Aberdeen, Scotland.
1770 Cosmo Alexander (1724-1772). Mary Jemima Balfour.
Cosmo Alexander left London for the Netherlands a decade later and then sailed for America in 1766, after the death of his father. In the Atlantic colonies he focused on connecting with the Scottish community, moving from town to town in search of commissions. Records show that he joined the St. Andrew's Society, a charitable group organized to assist fellow Scots, in both New York & Philadelphia, where he paused to paint.
1770 Attributed to Cosmo Alexander (1724-1772). Girl with a Lamb.
He also painted in Boston & New Jersey. Colonial governor William Franklin (loyalist son of Benjamin Franklin) wrote in his correspondence that Alexander lived for several weeks in the governor's mansion in Burlington, New Jersey, painting and receiving patrons there.
1770 Attributed to Cosmo Alexander (1724-1772). Girl with a Squirrel.
Colonial Governor Franklin, Benjamin Franklin's son, mentioned Alexander's frail condition in one of his letters to England, "He was last year deprived of the use of his limbs by a fit of sickness, but is since recovered & got to work again."
Alexander met his greatest portrait success in Newport, Rhode Island, where one young man remembered he was "of delicate health and prepossessing manners" and that he "associated almost exclusively with the gentlemen from Scotland." In Newport, Alexander met 14-year-old Gilbert Stuart (1754-1828), who was the son of a Scottish immigrant snuff millwright also thought to be a Jacobite. Bright young Stuart had already painted the famous portrait Dr. Hunter's Spaniels, which hangs today in the Hunter House Mansion in Newport, when he was 12-years-old.
Fellow Jacobite exile Dr. William Hunter, who owned the spaniels in Newport, convinced Alexander to take young Stuart as his apprentice. The pair traveled south in 1771, visiting Williamsburg & Charleston, before departing together for Edinburgh, where Alexander died suddenly the next year on August 25, 1772. Attempting briefly and without success to earn a living as a painter, Gilbert Stuart returned to Newport in 1773.
Gilbert Stuart (1755-1828). Self Portrait
The first portrait in this posting is from Scotland. In the spring of 2003, the Drambuie Liqueur Company sent its Jacobite art collection on tour to the Telfair Museum of Art in Savannah, Georgia. Among the paintings attributed to Alexander was Portrait of a Jacobite Lady, showing a woman in a tartan riding habit holding the Jacobite symbol, the white rose.
During the 1745 Rebellion when Bonnie Prince Charlie tried to wrest back the British throne from the Hanoverian dynasty, he arrived in the Scottish capital of Edinburgh to great fanfare. Many women donned tartan dresses & Jacobite symbols. The Prince thanked one of the most enthusiastic Edinburgh families supporting the Jacobite cause, the MacKinnons, by giving them the secret recipe for the after-dinner whisky liqueur called Drambuie. The MacKinnon family ran a company producing the spirit for over 250 years.
This painting, Portrait of a Jacobite Lady, demonstrates how art can be used to express a political belief. After the 1745 uprising, the British government made it illegal to be a Jacobite. Subjects in the Scottish Highland region (the area where most of the prince's supporters lived) were forbidden to carry weapons or wear tartans (the plaid fabric representing their family). Obviously, supporting someone to overthrow the ruler was against the law; and if a subject were discovered to be a Jacobite, the sentence would be death. Jacobites had to express their support of the Stuart family in secret or leave Scotland, as Cosmo Alexander did.
Although it is not certain, artist Joseph Blackburn was probably born, schooled, & died in England. He clearly was taught painting in the English Rocco portrait style & his particular skill was in painting elegant fabrics & fashions on gracefully portrayed sitters. We do know that before he came to the American colonies, he sailed first to Bermuda, where he spent 2 years painting portraits.
He left that island for the potential of a broader client base in the growing Atlantic towns of the British American colonies. He was painting actively in the colonies from 1754-1763. He arrived in Newport from Bermuda in 1754, and then traveled to Boston (1755-58), and on to Portsmouth (1758-62). He returned to London in 1763.
He arrived in his first colonial American port town with a letter of introduction from a locally known and respected member of genteel society.
The 1754 letter of introduction from a family member of one of Blackburn's former clients addressed to friends in the artist's next port-of-call encourages both Blackburn's social acceptance and his employment.
Joseph Blackburn's letter of introduction to Newport society, "I hope youl excuse the liberty I shall now take of recommending the bearer Mr Blackburne to your favor & friendship, he is late from the Island of Bermuda a Limner by profession & is allow’d to excell in that science, has now spent some months in this place, & behav’d in all respects as becomes a Gentleman, being possess’d with the agreeable qualities of great modesty, good sence & genteel behaviour he purposes if suitable encouragements to make some stay in Boston, and will be an entire stranger there...shall therefore be obliged to you or friends for any civilities you are pleased to shew him, my best Compliments...to your good lady Miss Sucky and Miss Nancy & who’s Pictures I expect to see in Boston drawn by the above Gent[lema]n."
Just like other colonial portraitists, Blackburn copied many of his poses and costumes from English mezzotints executed in the baroque style of Godfrey Kneller (1646–1723) & Peter Lely (1618–1680) and the updated rococo take of Thomas Hudson (1701–1779).
Blackburn painted fanciful depictions of the pastoral shepherdess, lavish silk gowns, and extravagant formal urns & gardens that reflected the fantasy desires of his colonial gentry clients living far from London's easy access to excess.
1757 Joseph Blackburn (fl in the colonies 1754-1763). Abigail Browne (Mrs. Joseph Blaney)
1757 Joseph Blackburn (fl in the colonies 1754-1763). Mrs James Pitts
1757 Joseph Blackburn (fl in the colonies 1754-1763). Susan Apthorp (Mrs. Thomas Bulfinch)
1759 Joseph Blackburn (fl in the colonies 1754-1763). Hannah Babcock (Mrs. John Bours)
1760 Joseph Blackburn (fl in the colonies 1754-1763). Hannah Wentworth Atkinson
1761 Joseph Blackburn (fl in the colonies 1754-1763). Elizabeth Browne Rogers
1762 Joseph Blackburn (fl in the colonies 1754-1763). Portrait of a Woman
1762-63 Joseph Blackburn (fl in the colonies 1754-1763). Mrs Samuel Cutts
In London on September 15, 1760, John Durand, apprenticed for 7 years to decorative carriage & heraldry painter Charles Catton, Senior (1728-1798). (Public Records Office, London, IRI 1759, Folio 144) In the mid 1760s, apparently somewhat shy of the full 7 year commitment, student John Durand sailed for America, offering to paint inspiring historical paintings for the colonial populace, which was only interested in portraits
John Durand first appeared in newpapers in the colonies in the spring of 1768; although he may have been painting in Virginia, before he advertised in New York. If he was painting in Virginia in 1765, he had certainly left his apprenticeship in London, before its contract expired.
His advertisements reflect his decorative heraldry and carriage painting & staining apprenticeship, as well as his desire to become a history painter. In order to support himself, Durand settled for the common ground for a painter in the American colonies, he painted portraits.
It is reported that he placed an ad in the New York Journal on April 2, 1768, offering drawing instructions in New York. "Any young Gentleman inclined to learn the Principles of Design, so far as to be able to draw any objects and shade them with Indian Ink or Water Colours, which is both useful and ornamental may be taught by John Durand...at his House on Broad Street, near City Hall, for a reasonable Price."
Perhaps he did not attract any interested students. Just days later, he did place the following notice in several papers: April 11, 18, 25, & May 2, 1768 in the New York Gazette, or Weekly Post Boy. April 21 & May 5, 1768 in the New York Journal "The subscriber having from his infancy endeavoured to qualify himself in the art of historical painting, humbly hopes for that encouragement from the gentlemen and ladies of this city and province, that so elegant and entertaining an art has always obtain'd from the people of the most improved minds and best taste and judgment, in all polite nations in every age. And tho' he is sensible that o excel, (in this branch of painitng especially) requires a more ample fun of universal and accurate knowledge than he can pretend to, in geometry, geography, perspective, anatomy, expression of the passions, ancient and modern history, &c. &c. yet he hopes, from the good nature and indulgence of the gentlemen and ladies who employ him, that his humble attempts, in which his best endeavours will not be wanting, will meet with acceptance, and give satisfaction; and he proposes to work at as cheap rates as any person in America."
1768-70 John Durand (French-born?, English-trained, American painter, 1731-1805) Hannah Farmer (Mrs. Benjamin Peck)
"To such gentelmen and ladies as have thought but little upon this subject and might only regard painting as a superfluous ornament, I would just observe, that history painting, besides being extrememly ornamental has many important uses.--It presents to our view some of the most interesting scenes recorded in ancient or modern hisory, gives us more lively and perfect ideas of the things represented, than we could received from a historical account of them, and frequently recals to our memory a long train of events with which those representations were connected. They show us a proper expression of the passions excited by every event, and have an effect, the very same in kind (but stronger) that a fine historical description of the same passage would have upon a judiciouos reader. Men who have distinguished themselves for the good of their country and mankind, may be set before our eyes as examples, and to give us their silent lessons--and besides, every judicuous friend and visitant shares, with us in the advantage and improvement, and increases it value to ourselves." John Durand Near the City Hall, Broad Street
But after his May 5th notice in the New York papers, he had moved north rather suddenly. On May 13, 20, and 27, 1768, he placed the following noice in the Connecticut Journal. "John Durand, Portrait Painter, Intends to Stay in this Town part of the warm season. If any Gentlemen or Ladies, choose to hae thier Pictures Drawn, they may have them Drawn a good deal cheaper than has yet been seen; by applying to the Subscriber living at Captain Camp's House, where several of his Perfomances may be seen. And for more Conveniences of an Gentlemen or Ladies, that would have them Drawn at their Houses, he will wait upon them whenever they please if sent for." John Durand.
1768 Attributed by some to John Durand (French-born?, English-trained, American painter, 1731-1805) Sarah Whitehead Hubbard
This announcement seems to imply that John Durand would be moving south, when the cold weather came to Connecticut. He was apparently somewhat unsuccessful as a portrait painter in New York and New England, although he did paint in Connecticut. From dates on his portraits & notes in account journals, he was working in Virginia in 1770-71, 1775, and 1780.
He advertised twice in Williamsburg, Virginia in the 1770s. On June 7, 1770 & June 21, 1770, he placed the following notice in the Virginia Gazette. "Portrait Painting. Gentlemen and Ladies that are inclined to have their pictures drawn will find the subscriber ready to serve them, upon very moderate terms, either for cash, short credit, or country produce. at their own homes or where he lives, which is next door to the Hon. The Speaker's. He will likewise wait upon Gentlemen and Ladies in the country, if they send for him. He will also paint, gild, and varnish, wheel carriages and put coats of arms, or ciphers, upon them, in a neater and more lasting manner than was ever done in this country."