William Elliott


Samuel Lovett Waldo ( American, 1783 - 1861 )


William Jewett ( American, 1795 - 1874 )

c. 1838
more object details

General Description

This boldly painted portrait is characteristic of the vigorous style of the forty-year artistic partnership of Samuel Lovett Waldo and William Jewett. After training at the Royal Academy in London from 1806 to 1809, Waldo returned to the US and began a successful career as a portraitist and cultural figure in New York. Jewett—formerly apprenticed to a coach-maker—was first Waldo's apprentice and then his eventual employee and partner. While Waldo usually painted his subjects' heads and shoulders, Jewett normally concentrated on backgrounds. A larger, three-quarter length portrait of New Yorker William Elliott, with a more detailed background and different prop in the left hand, is in the collection of Yale University Art Gallery.

Excerpt from

Wiliam Keyse Rudolph, DMA Label text, 2006.


c. 1838

Object file reviewed

Title must have changed between-1987 and 2016.

Curatorial Remarks:

Samuel Lovett Waldo studied at the Royal Academy in London with the American masters Copley and West. Like his contemporary Thomas Sully, he was greatly influenced by the British romantic portraitist Sir Thomas Lawrence. Beginning in 1818, Waldo formed a 30-year partnership with his student William Jewett, whereby Waldo painted the faces and hands, and Jewett the backgrounds. There are two versions of William Elliott, the DMA work and a three-quarter length portrait, perhaps painted earlier, at the Yale University Art Gallery. In the romantic tradition, the strong lighting and elegant clothing focus the attention on the sitter's face. The quickly painted background, suggesting a drape pulled back to reveal a stormy landscape, does not detract from the emphasis on Elliott, whose intense dark eyes gaze directly out at the viewer.

Second artist attribution added.

Per Charles Venable, title changed from Portrait of a Gentleman on 12-17-90; see file for letter dated 11-27-90 to Mr. Venable from Marcia Goldberg

In the 19th century, American artists turned increasingly to landscape painting. Portraiture continued, but was no longer the dominant form. A new type of portraiture, that of the romantic portrait of mood, became popular, influenced largely by the English romantic portraitists, especially Thomas Lawrence. Characteristics of this new type of portrait include: dramatic contrasts of light and dark, a new interest in brushstroke and flowing movement, and the sense of mood of the sitter (often shown by the concentration on the eyes). The better known practitioners in America of this new type of portrait were Samuel Waldo, S.F.B. Morse, Thomas Sully, and John Neagle. The Portrait of a Gentleman shows the artist's strong sense of characterization and mood, along with the use of contrasts of light and shadow in the light of the face. On the whole Waldo's portraits, solid but often uninspired, are not as distinctive as those of Sully and lack the latter's greater sense of mood and evocation of feeling. (See the Sully Portrait of Mrs. George H. Crossman.)

Excerpt from

Anne Bromberg, "Description of Selected Paintings in the Collection," DMA Education files, 1987.

Geography probably New York

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