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 John Henry Byrd  (1805 - 1884)

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Lived/Active: Arkansas/Louisiana / Ireland      Known for: portrait painting

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Ad Code: 4
AskART Artist
from Auction House Records.
Portrait of a young girl wearing a white dress, black beaded necklace, and colorful ribbon.
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
JOHN HENRY BYRD (1805/6-1884)

Noted as Arkansas' most prolific antebellum artist, John Henry Byrd is best known for the restrained romantic portraits he painted around the state for twenty years. Nicknamed the 'Sully of Arkansas', Byrd in the 19th century painted many of that state's leading families who lived in areas such as Little Rock, Batesville, Camden, Pine Bluff, Hot Springs, and El Dorado. During his career he also lived in New Orleans, Louisiana, and in Huntsville, Alabama.

In 1841 the artist submitted this notice to the Arkansas Gazette: "Henry Byrd, portrait painter, has taken rooms the Anthony House, where he will remain for a short while. He has had much experience in his art, and hopes he will meet with a generous patronage in Little Rock, which has been extended to him in New Orleans and other cities of the United States."

Among the Arkansas citizens he painted were Samuel C. and John S. Roane, Peter Hanger, and Chester Ashley. One poignant work is a portrait of the child John Peay Hammond and his dog Bounce, painted by Henry Byrd in 1856. The work now hangs in the Little Rock Historic Arkansas Museum. The young boy refused to have his portrait painted without his favorite companion, Bounce. Family history states that the boy died soon after this portrait was made and his dog died longing for his beloved master.

Some of Byrd's works hang in the Arkansas State Capitol building.


Sources:
William H. Gerdts, "Art Across America" Vol II., and to the
Websites of The Old Statehouse Museum and the Little Rock Historic Arkansas Museum.
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A portrait painter first recorded in the United States, New York City, from 1832-1838, and then in 1841, he was in New Orleans and Little Rock, Arkansas. In 1839, he exhibited at the Louisiana State Fair, winning a medal for the best oil painting. During the 1840s, he settled in El Dorado, Arkansas and was there between 1851 and 1866. He became the "state's most prolific antebellum portrait painter." (Schmit 61). In 1858, he had a brief visit to New Orleans, and then after the Civil War made the city his home until his death in 1884.


Source:
Patricia Schmit, "Encyclopedia of New Orleans Artists"
Peter Falk, "Who Was Who in American Art"
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The following is from Carol Gohari, researcher of John Henry Byrd who wrote an article: "Frederick Byrd: A Mid-Nineteenth Century Artist?," The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, Volume 126, Number 3, pp.167-174, published in 1995. This is an excerpt from that article.


While doing research on my ancestor, William Richard BRISTOW (1803 - 1867), I discovered that in his unprobated and unpublished will, drawn up on 12 September 1866, he made a bequest of his portrait, "painted by BYRD" (Kings Co. Wills, Unfinished Miscellaneous). Since the location or continued existence of the portrait is unknown at the present time, I decided to make a study of the possible artist of this painting.

One source that I consulted was George C. Groce and David H. Wallace's book "The New-York Historical Society's Dictionary of Artists in America", 1564-1860. (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1957, p. 102). This book listed two artists with the surname Byrd. The first of these was Frederick Byrd, "Painter, NYC, 1842-45; exhibited a portrait and a painting at the American Institute in 1842 and 1844, respectively." The second artist mentioned was (John) Henry Byrd, "Portrait painter, active 1840- 83. Henry Byrd was working in New Orleans 1841-42 and at Hunts-ville (Ala.) in 1846. John Henry Byrd is stated to have been at Little Rock (Ark.) as early as 1840, and to have worked in Arkan-sas, Mississippi, and Louisiana between 1842 and 1857. Henry Byrd was listed in New Orleans directories again from 1867 to 1883. The two men are assumed to be identical."

There is also the possibility that the painter (John) Henry Byrd who resided in New Orleans may be another brother or other relative [of Frederick Byrd]. As mentioned previously, Henry and Frederick Byrd appeared together in the 1838-39 New York City directory. This may be the same Henry Byrd who became a citizen on 7 Nov. 1835 in the Marine Court in New York City. His nationality was stated as "English". The witness was Daniel Updike (NYC Naturalizations, vol. 17, rec. 173). (John) Henry Byrd died in the then suburban town of Carrollton, Louisiana on 26 September 1884 "in his 79th year" (death notice, New Orleans Picayune, 27 September 1884).

A copy of his death certificate was filed with his Succession Papers [Administration]. In it, he is described only as " a native of Ireland." His heirs were numerous, and were the product of three marriages. Named in the Succession Papers were: Mary Byrd, widow of John B. Speers, the only child of his first marriage to Sarah J. Updyke who died in 1847; John Henry, Corinna, Peter P., William W., Daniel B. and Robert E.L. Byrd, children of the second marriage of their father to Leinad Speers who died 9 Oct. 1867, New Orleans; and Howell Stevenson Byrd, and Henry Byrd [Jr.], deceased, sons of the third marriage of their father to Rosa Keiser. All were of Pine Bluff, Jefferson County, Arkansas at the time of the deposition made on 23 November 1903. [Note: In 1990, the Succession Papers File (12366, New Orleans Civil District Court, Division A, Booklet 1) of (John) Henry Byrd was located at the New Orleans Public Library. I am indebted to Mr. Cliff Ryan of Metairie, LA for his assistance in obtaining this file.]

At that time, research on another probable brother or cousin, John Byrd, revealed that he was married to Alicia Johnson about 1827 in Horseleap, West Meath, Ireland. Since that time, I have also discovered that two of this John Byrd's eldest children, William and Eliza, were baptized in St. M's [St. Mary's?], Athlone, Ireland, about 1828 & 1830 (FHL Microfilm 1279273, "Biographical Dictionary of Athlone," p. 56).

I received two inquiries from other Byrd researchers based on this article. The first, received 31 Aug 2000, was from William Byrd, the g g g grandson of Frederick Byrd. In his letter, he says: "I also have a relative in New Hampshire who actually has some type of portrait that Frederick did, but I have not seen it yet. She is up in years, 91 to be exact and has the portrait filed away somewhere in a cabinet. I am continuing to see if she will at least photograph the painting." Mr. Byrd pointed me to two web pages that have Byrd painting images:
http://lsm.crt.state.la.us/painting/byrd2.htm
http://lsm.crt.state.la.us/painting/byrd1.jpg

The second inquiry was in the form of a telephone call and e-mails on 13 Aug 2003 from Leila Hewitt. She was related to the Byrd family through marriage to the Conlin family. She also mentioned the portrait in New Hampshire.







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