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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Who was Mather Brown?


George Washington finally died at the age of 67 on page 809 of Ron Chernow's long, long book, George Washington, A Life, and I moved on to Thomas Jefferson, the third president of these United States and not a friend of George's. George was a Federalist. Jefferson was a Republican. They started out friendly enough, but through George's first term of the  presidency, their differences of opinion eventually forced Jefferson to resign as Secretary of State and George to refer to him thereafter as "that man" or "that scalawag."  After that, Jefferson went after George in the press, undermining all of George's achievements. The difference between the two political ideologies of the two men had to do with how they interpreted the constitution. Read a lot like what goes on in Washington today. The difference being both of these men put the welfare of the people and the country first and foremost. 

This portrait is the youngest portrait we have of Thomas. It was painted by Mather Brown in 1787 for a Abigail and John Adams to be gifted to Thomas.  Thomas was forty four, a well bred, well dressed, very accomplished young man with red hair under that wig, fine, aristocratic, always tanned,  features, long legs and well developed body. He stood six feet,two and a half inches, spoke four languages, was an excellent horseman, and was a charmer of the ladies--Abigail Adams among them. Abigail got to know Tom in Paris while husband John was the American ambassador. Abigail and Thomas shared an interest in landscape architecture and explored French gardens together. --There was nothing sneaky going on. Thomas was building Monticello and planning the gardens based upon the ideas he was picking up from visiting the breathtakingly beautiful gardens of France.

I had never heard of Mather Brown till yesterday when I Binged him. He was an American painter who studied under Gilbert Stuart and then went on to London to study under Benjamin West. He was West's most brilliant student. He painted outstanding historical paintings, then decided to concentrate on portraiture. While he painted the English nobility--including King George IV--portraiture commissions eventually dried up and he died in poverty. How sad is that! How annoying is that? Art is full of stories like these that irritate the hell out of me. 

I have some more down time  to catch up on my history reading. Last Friday, the doc wanted me to do four more physical therapy sessions.  The workouts, and not getting a good night's rest, are knocking me out, but the knee's mobility improves everyday. I'm back on the elliptical trainer. I'm riding my bike.  I'm walking daily, rain or shine, in the neighborhood longer distances. I am painting when I feel like it, which you know isn't often.  That will change in Mexico.  I've ordered my travel watercolor kit and a couple of blocks. We'll be on the beach for three weeks. That's at least 19 paintings. We leave December second. I have a feeling I'll be feeling just great somewhere between my house and the airport. 


  1. Great post! I only know of Mather Brown because in the art courses I teach, we spend time exploring the Metropolitan Museum of Art online. Two of his works are on exhibit. Glad you are doing so well!

    1. Thanks JJ. Being that I wrote it at six this morning after turning and tossing all night, the rewrite wouldn't be all that demanding. Washington's presidency has stirred an interest in the formation of our political parties--well, what I read plus what has been going on in Washington. I started my query today reading about Hamilton's Federalist Party. I think I might have been a Federalist back then. I do believe, as Washington did, in a standing army, federal taxation and tariffs. How else can a new nation pay their debts and protect their borders? It's surprising to me that the party petered out.

  2. Good Morning Linda,
    And a good morning it is! Nice to see you back and sporting a bright mood. It's also great to learn how well the knee rehab is going. All of Mexico, (at least the beach and pool) will be your playground and subject matter.
    Thanks, too, for the history lesson. There is simply too much for school books to fairly cover, so when nice people like you share details from a seriously researched tome, we all benefit.
    Glad you enjoyed seeing the post, too. Officials here do a pretty good job of warning novice surfers to stay out of the water when large swells arrive. Old timers, like me, don't need it! If we've lived this long, our drive for self-preservation is working just fine. :))
    Enjoy your day, Linda!

    1. Thank you Gary. Swells not curls. Swells curl. I think I've got it.

      I'm finding the formation of our government fascinating, but being female, my curiosity really peaks when the historians provide personal information about these men we've placed on pedestals. I think the writings of Abigail Adams would be fascinating. Reading history as told by a woman would definitely provide us with a different perspective--perhaps a more true perspective? Women don't breast their cards; they tell all.

  3. oh good!! another sun-drenched vacation and you'll do some paintings there....woooo hooooo! Now that is something to look forward to. I also enjoyed the history lesson well as the introduction to Mather Brown. So interesting! Sounds like your knee is healing very well. High five!

    1. "They" say it's healing fast. I say oh so slowly. "They" are right. At six weeks, the surgery is considered still fresh. So I suppose I'm doing okay. This being my second surgery ever, what do I know. I know, I wasn't going to miss out on my watercolor plein air trip to Mexico.

      With portraiture being the only means of recording someone's likeness in the seventeen hundreds, portrait artists were esteemed. Maybe, Mather Brown would have been better known and better off financially had he stayed in the smaller pond rather than returning to London to court the aristocracy? Pun intended. :-))