Saturday, November 16, 2013
18C American Paintings of Women by John Wollaston 1710-1775
English rococo portraitist John Wollaston arrived in New York from England in 1749, where he worked for 2 years. It seems that Wollaston came across the Atlantic specifically to paint portraits and then to return to England. A contemporary label on his 1751 portrait of colonial William Smith, Jr. refers to "Johnannes Wollaston Londoniensis." Little is know about his training in England. Charles Willson Peale wrote to his son Rembrandt in 1812, that Wollaston trained in London with a painter of drapery. Wollaston left England just as Neoclassicism, as a reaction against baroque and rococo styles, was spreading throughout England and Europe.
He traveled south from New York to paint briefly in Philadelphia in 1752; and, by the winter of 1753, Wollaston moved south to Annapolis, Maryland, and then on to Virginia by 1755. In Annapolis, he painted at least 60 portraits of Marylanders.
Wollaston's rococo portraits were a hit in Maryland's capital of Annapolis. The March 15, 1753, Maryland Gazette carried the following poem honoring Wollaston.
"On Seeing Mr. Wollaston’s Pictures, in Annapolis," by a Dr. T. T.
Behold the wond’rous Power of Art!
That mocks devouring Time and Death,
Can Nature’s ev’ry Charm impart;
And make the lifeless Canvas breathe.
In the Chesapeake, he painted the families of many plantation-owning gentry. He returned to the city-life of Philadelphia in 1758, seeking more commissions. Some suggest that he may have sailed for the West Indies from Philadelphia. In the fall of 1765, he reappeared in the bustling, high-style port city of Charleston, South Carolina, where he painted at least 17 portraits. Although there is no written record of his associations, Wollaston may have known younger artsts Robert Feke, John Hesselius, and perhaps Benjamine West. He may have known Jeremiah Theus, while he was painting in Charleston.
On January 19, 1767, Wollaston, announced his plans to leave Charleston to return to England, in the South Carolina Gazette:
"The Subscriber intending for England in a few weeks, takes this public method of returning thanks, to all gentlemen and ladies who have been so good to employ him: Those who may have any demands upon him, are desired to bring in their accounts; and of those who are indebted to him he requests the favour they will discharge the same."