Portrait of an Unknown Gentleman

“Who was the artist?” the owners wanted to know.  The Portrait of an Unknown Gentleman was an especially hard project because the painting had little provenance. The owners purchased the portrait in Wisconsin at auction.  The estate may have been from Iowa, but the owners, antique dealers, thought the portrait looked southern. The only other clue was a nearly illegible signature at the upper right on …

Stories Behind the Portraits: Frances Booker George

Portrait If you are already familiar with the portraits of George Caleb Bingham, especially Mary Ann Gilliss (Mrs. Benoist Troost) at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri, then you know at first glance that George Caleb Bingham painted the portrait of Frances Booker George. Her full name was Frances Annabelle Booker (Mrs. James W. George). Several years ago, the painting went up …

Busy, Happy Holiday

What a busy, happy holiday for the George Caleb Bingham portraits branch of Fine Art Investigations. First came the discovery of two long sought after Bingham portraits: Joshua Belden (1802-1877) and Agnes Elizabeth Lewis (Mrs. Joshua Belden) (1806-1843). Then came fresh photographs of a portrait that is an old friend, Sallie Neill. I never cease to be amazed at the difference …

Stories Behind the Portraits: Louisa Watkins

Louisa Watkins is the fourth post-Civil War posthumous portrait I have seen that depicts  a person George Caleb Bingham may never have met or barely knew. To create the portrait, he had to rely on a photograph. The others are Sarah Ann (Sallie) Elliott (Mrs. Henry A. Neill), Julia George, and Julia’s brother, Richard Booker George. All four subjects sit facing forward, in the …

The Mystery of Five Family Portraits: IV – Mary Elizabeth Lee & Robert F. Fleming

Introduction The last two family portraits in need of artist identification were Mary Elizabeth Lee (1827-1902) and her husband, whose middle name was the same as his last, Dr. Robert Fleming Fleming (1816-1871). Mary Elizabeth was a daughter the subject of the second portrait, Juliana Marian Prosser (1805-1886) and Colonel Richard Bland Lee II (1797-1875), a grandson of the subject of the first portrait, Henry Lee II. Subjects Mary …