Artists & Designers

Ralph Earl (1751-1801)

Born and trained in the British Colonies, the painter Ralph Earl fled to England in 1778 because he supported the King of England during the Revolutionary War. After his return to the newly independent United States in 1785, he took advantage of the market for portraits of war heroes. During the 1790s Ralph Earl traveled throughout Connecticut painting portraits of prominent residents in each successive township. In his portraits, Earl went beyond the "likeness" of his handsome contemporaries to display keen insight into their characters; his paintings show people in their own homes, surrounded by their furniture, pursuing their customary occupations. Behind his subjects appear glimpses of identifiable scenes such as the countryside, seashore, river valleys and villages. Earl opted for rapid execution over lengthy sittings, using bold colors and brushwork. By this time full-length portraits were no longer in style in more fashionable locales such as New York, but they remained popular in Connecticut until the end of the century. Of the many military portraits Earl executed in America, eight are members of the veterans group the Society of the Cincinnati, including Captain John Pratt (1792, 1990.146.1).

Adapted from

  • Ken Kelsey, Gail Davitt, Mary Ann Allday, Troy Smythe, and Barbara Barrett, "Art of the Americas at the Dallas Museum of Art," Teaching packet (Dallas Museum of Art), 1994.
  • Eleanor Jones Harvey, "Ralph Earl, Captain John Pratt," in Dallas Museum of Art: A Guide to the Collection, ed. Charles Venable (New Haven, NJ: Yale University Press, 1997), 219.

Web Resources

The Society of the Cincinnati
Check out the Society of the Cincinnati's website to read about the group's history and continuing activities.