Jeremiah Theus was born in Chur, Switzerland; and at age 19, arrived in South Carolina with his family in 1735.
During this period, South Carolina's General Assembly encouraged European Protestants to settle in the colony by providing transportation funds and supplying immigrants with farm tools and a year’s stock of food. Theus's family received a 250-acre land grant on the Edisto River and a town lot.
By 1740, Theus began serving as the area's only resident portraitist. He may have received some training in Switzerland and brought some prints with him to South Carolina.
Theus referred to a somewhat limited number of English mezzotint portraits for his client's poses and costumes. He also stylized facial features of his sitters, resulting in many similar portraits.
On August 30, 1740, Jeremiah Theüs advertised in the South-Carolina Gazette: "Notice is hereby given, that Jeremiah Theus Limner is remov’d into the Market Square near Mr. John Laurans Sadler, where all Gentlemen and Ladies may have their Pictures drawn, likewise Landskips of all Sizes, Crests, and Coats of Arms for Coaches or Chaises. Likewise for the Conveniency of those who live in the Country, he is willing to wait on them at their respective Plantations."
Theus also painted landscapes and coats of arms, and by 1744, was offering an evening drawing school for "young Gentlemen and Ladies" at his house in Charleston.
His popularity is apparent in a letter written to him by James Habersham (1715–1775), who served as acting colonial governor of Georgia from 1771 to 1773. In July 1772, Habersham wrote to Theüs, "I received...all my Family Pictures, besides Mr Wylly’s, and Mrs Crookes, Coll Jones’ Grandchild, and two for Mr Clay, which are all delivered—I have also your account for my 7 Pictures, amounting to Three Hundred and twenty Pounds South Carolina Currency, which I shall order to be paid you." The artist died in Charleston in 1774.
To see gentlemen painted by Theus, go to the American Gallery.