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 John Bradley  ( - after 1847)

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Lived/Active: New York / England      Known for: naive portrait, child figure, genre

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Ad Code: 3
John Bradley
from Auction House Records.
Portrait of a Young Girl in Green Dress
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Portrait painter John Bradley was born in England, although the dates of birth and death are not well founded. Immigration documents suggest he may have been the John Bradley of unlisted profession who arrived from Ireland in August 1826 on the ship "Carolina Ann".

He was active in the New York City environs from 1832 to 1847, with the first painting that definitely places him in the United States being an 1832 portrait representing the New York merchant Asher Androvette. This and other of his portraits of the mid 1830s depict residents of Staten Island, which was then known as Richmond Island. New York City directories list him as a portrait and miniature painter working in an area that would now include Houston Street.

Bradleys earliest paintings show subjects at full length, while subsequent works were smaller in size, often using a waist-length format. His portraits have a defined and sharp quality, relying on silhouette to create detail of facial features. Self-taught, he uses bright and clear colors.

Most of his known paintings are dated and signed "i.Bradley" or "J.Bradley". Many also are inscribed "Great Britton". His earliest style shows the influence of British portrait tradition, whereas later works are more academic in technique and weaker in spirit. As photography became popular towards the end of his career, his colors became more muted. Children were popular subjects in many of his works.

Typical of his portraits, and of early American portraiture in general, are tonal values limited to brown, white, and black, enlivened only by accents such as a tasseled curtain or a figured carpet, as in "The Cellist" (oil on canvas, 1832). Figures often had awkward proportions, with limbs that defy anatomy or feet that are impossibly small, perhaps to convey a sense of gentility. Often he used a trademark of white highlights.

Bradleys career gained attention for his portraits of other prominent Staten Island residents the Coles, the Tottens, and the Ellises, and of New York merchant Simon Content and his wife, in 1833.

It is thought that Bradley resided close to the subjects that he painted; however, searches of census and church records provide few clues. From 1836 to 1847, four addresses have been located belonging to John Bradley, but after 1847 he ceased to appear in the New York directories and no works are known beyond this date.

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