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Lessons in Likeness

Portrait Painters in Kentucky and the Ohio River Valley, 1802-1920

Estill Pennington

Publication Year: 2011

From 1802, when the young artist William Edward West began painting portraits on a downriver trip to New Orleans, to 1918, when John Alberts, the last of Frank Duveneck’s students, worked in Louisville, a wide variety of portrait artists were active in Kentucky and the Ohio River Valley. Lessons in Likeness: Portrait Painters in Kentucky and the Ohio River Valley, 1802–1920 charts the course of those artists as they painted the mighty and the lowly, statesmen and business magnates as well as country folk living far from urban centers. Paintings by each artist are illustrated, when possible, from The Filson Historical Society collection of some 400 portraits representing one of the most extensive holdings available for study in the region. This volume begins with a cultural chronology—a backdrop of critical events that shaped the taste and times of both artist and sitter. The chronology is followed by brief biographies of the artists, both legends and recent discoveries, illustrated by their work. Matthew Harris Jouett, who studied with Gilbert Stuart, William Edward West, who painted Lord Byron, and Frank Duveneck are well-known; far less so are James T. Poindexter, who painted charming children’s portraits in western Kentucky, Reason Croft, a recently discovered itinerant in the Louisville area, and Oliver Frazer, the last resident portrait artist in Lexington during the romantic era. Pennington’s study offers a captivating history of portraiture not only as a cherished possession but also representing a period of cultural and artistic transitions in the history of the Ohio River Valley region.

Published by: The University Press of Kentucky


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Title page, Copyright, Dedicatoin

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p. vii

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pp. ix-x

Lessons in Likeness, Estill Pennington’s study of portrait painting in Kentucky and the Ohio River Valley from about 1800 to the end of the First World War, will delight many readers. In this book he offers a general essay about Kentucky portraiture in that long century and provides a biographical checklist of individual artists, illustrated...

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pp. xi-xii

The mission of The Filson Historical Society is to collect, preserve, and tell the significant stories of Kentucky and the Ohio River Valley region’s history and culture. The enduring legacy that portrait painters left to our region in the form of portraiture is one of those significant stories. Today, approximately four hundred portraits make...

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pp. xiii-xiv

This publication was made possible by the generosity of Dace Brown Stubbs, Laura Lee Brown, and G. Garvin Brown III, whose contributions were made in memory of their father, George Garvin Brown II. The Filson Historical Society is grateful to them for this opportunity to share a portion of its portrait collection with those who...

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pp. xv-xxiii

Between 1802, when the young Kentucky artist William Edward West began to paint portraits while on a downriver journey, and 1920, when the last of Frank Duveneck’s students worked in Louisville, a large number of notable portrait artists were active in Kentucky and the Ohio River Valley. The purpose of this study is to...

Part one Cultural Chronology

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p. 1

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pp. 3-12

In 1802 a young William Edward West went downriver to New Orleans with the Bourbon County farmer and distiller Abram Spears and en route painted Spears’s portrait in miniature, the first noted instance of Kentucky portraiture.1 The miniature is still in the possession of Spears descendants. West is known to have painted only one...

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The Invention of Photography and the Coming of War

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pp. 43-66

Several types of itinerant artists can be identified in Kentucky and the Ohio River Valley by the trails left behind by their works. Seasonal itinerants from the northern Ohio River Valley worked in the deep South during the warmer winter months. Conversely, painters seeking to escape the intense heat of New Orleans pursued work in...

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Exhibitions, Collecting, and International Trends

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pp. 67-96

In March 1865 Congress established the Freedmen’s Bureau as a means of addressing the needs of African-Americans in the former slave states. In Kentucky, the Bureau established offices in Lexington, Louisville, and Paducah under General Clinton Fisk. Fisk reported to Congress that he had seen thirteen black soldiers whipped and two...

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Part Two Artists’ Biographies

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pp. 97-222

The artists chosen for inclusion in this section are those whose activity in Kentucky and the Ohio River Valley has been identified in previous art historical records and who have an identifiable body of work extant in sufficient quantity in public and private collections to assemble a checklist for comparative...


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pp. 223-226


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pp. 227-234

Abbreviations ofArchives and Collections

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pp. 235-236


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pp. 237-246


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pp. 247-252

E-ISBN-13: 9780813126135
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813126128

Page Count: 256
Publication Year: 2011

OCLC Number: 708564982
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Lessons in Likeness

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Subject Headings

  • Portrait painting, American -- Kentucky.
  • Portrait painting, American -- Ohio River Region.
  • Portrait painters -- Kentucky -- Biography.
  • Portrait painters -- Ohio River Region -- Biography.
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