Wednesday, October 23, 2013

After Mather Byles Brown

After Mather Byles Brown, Thomas Jefferson,  Charcoal Study
"Enough" in progress by l.w.roth 

For someone who didn't make it into the Royal Academy in London, more than 17 copies of Mather Brown's paintings made it into The Royal Collection Trust, so the artist can rest in peace, hopefully not in a pauper's grave.  An American painter, his portraits and historic scenes are currently in collections in five prestigeous American museums. Two originals are in Detroit's Institute of Arts (DIA).  Maybe Mather made a big mistake going to London to study under Benjamin West? Had he stayed in the smaller pond that was America, he may have made a bigger splash and lived a life of comfort.

A canvas shipment was delivered. I carried it down to the studio to store.  The charcoal materials were handy. There was a clean sheet on the easel waiting.  I couldn't resist. A half hour later, I had gotten this far with Thomas Jefferson's likeness, but my wounded knee shouted "Enough." So, "Enough."

16 comments:

  1. Those wigs are such a mystery.

    Terrific sketch. Excited to read about your upcoming trip to Mexico.

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    1. It needs tweaking if I care to tweak. The fun part was putting charcoal to paper. I did stay a tad too long.

      Didn't they wear wigs because washing one's hair was a luxury? That's what I recall from high school when bad hair days were a catastrophic ordeal.

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  2. Very nice work, Linda - a tad Sargentesque I believe! Took some time to catch up on your always interesting blog and I agree with you - I am irritated that Mather Brown died in poverty. It seems like just another millstone around my painters neck.

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    1. Mine too. Americans who returned to England during that revolutionary period were not treated kindly. They, or their ancestors, had migrated to the new world, the colonies. When the colonies rebelled, I guess all who had ever lived here were regarded as traitors, even if they were Loyalists. I haven't delved into Mather's life in the colonies, so i'm not sure where he falls, but I would bet that his English portrait commissions falling off had a lot to do with England's dispute with the colonies. He made a bad decision.

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    2. Great sketch and love the interesting history behind it.

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    3. It's fun to copy the masters--that is attempt to copy the masters. It's more fun to read their story. This fellow's story was sad. The painting Peales though probably have a more cheery one to tell. There were four or five--a number of Peale children-- who followed in their father's footsteps to become accomplished portrait artists. Up till the camera was perfected and in everybody's hand, portraiture was the only way folks had to record folks who were special to them or to anybody else. The eighteenth century was The Golden Age of Portraiture. Chuck Close gave the genre a contemporary look as did Andy Warhol. It seems today, portrait painters need special effects to bring attention to their work. So I'm reading American history, but just as interested in the arty details of colonial times.

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  3. I just love your work Linda. Hope your knee is allright.

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    1. Thanks Agnes. it's getting there. I will be able to hoof those incredibly long distances between airport security and the gate December 2nd.

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  4. If I remember right, he benefited from studying under West not only with some finessing to his talent, but also with important connections. West spoke highly of Brown.
    Regarding not being treated well and commissions falling off I think that maybe, just maybe, he ran out of the list of people who could afford to have their portraits done. There were a limited number and he did many.of them.
    I cannot think of anyone except the royals and blue bloods who were treated well in England. Unless you were of use or well connected, It was the land of haves and have-nots at that time.The haves ran the roost.
    Loved your self portrait and hope to see it finished.
    So pleased you are doing great with your rehab. Well done, friend. Here is a pat on the back for you...can you feel it...pat...pat...pat!

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    1. I like that portrait too. It's journalistic in that I'm not paying attention to the camera, I'm looking elsewhere. Portraiture is unfortunately still reserved for the upper classes. A charcoal runs about $1500, paintings in the thousands. They are also time consuming for the subject as well as the painter. Having late in life ambitions, it's the least financially satisfying genre to favor with one's time, but the most challenging., Landscapes would be better for sales--but more pastoral than mine. Perhaps that's why I'm looking at other portrait painters' stories? I mean Sargent was great, we all agree, but he, like us, followed in the footsteps of some other artist. Who was his favorite? Sargent too painted America's blue bloods. He chased society. Mather just ran out of nobles in England, in the colonies, the upper class was just beginning to bloom with the captains of government, commerce and industry. He should have come home after studying with West. Being a loyalist cost him. What as also said about him was that his work resembled West's . The implication was that he had added nothing of himself.

      I feel the pat and thank you for it. Believe me, I deserve it. They really have some torturous machines over there.

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  5. oooo I love your charcoal drawings! This one is really great---very clear and concise. Great job! It is always fun to learn some history during a visit to your blog too. Looking forward to whatever you do next!

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    1. I go where my interests shove me. Yesterday, I found myself still thinking about Alexander Hamilton and the first American political party he founded, the Federalist Party. I was going to find a painting of him to sketch, but it was PT day. Exercise comes first. Drawing after that, if they haven't pushed me too far. Today, I'm free. Here it is 9 AM and I've tidied up Jefferson as much as I care to. Will I take the oils out of the freezer? I don't know yet. Beethoven is waiting at the pianoforte. :-))

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  6. Great eyes, great edge work make a great portrait. You've got me thinking about digging out the history books as well.

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    1. History is fun reading now, as an adult, who gets to choose where you want to go with it. While going this presidential route, I am getting more interested in the formation and ideologies of the two political parties. I'm also getting interested in the British revolution and out with Charles the first, in with Cromwell and the effects that that revolution had on the American revolution. When you don't understand something, I say, go back to the beginning. And this [knee] presented the opportunity.

      Also having realized my pension for portraiture last couple of years, this era is very interesting. I believe it was the Golden Age of portraiture, so the painters and their stories are of interest. Art history didn't really spend much time on portrait painters. Of course, this too is circumstantial. When you don't know much about a something, portraiture, but think you might want to follow that pursuit, go back to the beginning BEFORE Sargent.
      This charcoal of Jefferson, is not only a step back to painting, but also a leg strengthening exercise--30 minutes one day, 32 the next, before I know it I'll be up to old times. Thanks Mick for stopping by. You know, the Louisiana Territory did cut into southern Canada; how did our borders get to be the way they are? It was good, rich land. Whet your appetite?

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  7. Very good looking fella and your last posts are a real treat! I agree with you, history classes could be so much more. The human side is often neglected. I love your sketch and the hint of the " jabot " already catches the eye. You must have been a demanding or rebel student at times, were you? Have a great week my american friend! :)

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    1. I did not do well in school. Looking back on those times, the work was never tied to where it would be of benefit in real life. I didn't know why it was important to my existance. Ironically, I flunked Geometry when I took it, but went back into those books as an adult to learn it; Geometry was very much a part of my designing life. Writing, drawing and art history were subjects where I excelled Those were the skills that got me into college. I did spend some time in my HS councilor's office. My friend and I loved the theater and often ducked out of classes to attend the Wednesday afternoon performances whenever new plays came to town. The pattern of our absences were noticed. I am a strong supporter of vocational training, education that is tied to future employment in a specific field. In my time, the professions were pushed--doctor, lawyer. Girls were suposed to be teachers and mothers. Taking shop was out of the question. I had to wait till I was an adult to buy my first saw. Rebellous would be a good adjective for my attitude towards my education.

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