Sunday, November 17, 2013
American Colonial Era Artist Joseph Blackburn 1700-1780
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