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 William W. Kennedy  (1817 - 1871)

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Lived/Active: Maryland/Massachusetts/New Hampshire      Known for: naive portrait painting

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Ad Code: 3
William W Kennedy
from Auction House Records.
Portrait of Young Lady with Red Book
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
William H. Kennedy was born in New Hampshire and worked as a portrait painter in New Bedford, Massachusetts; Ledyard, Connecticut; and Berwick, Maine from 1845 through 1847. He moved to Maryland in 1849 or 1850, living at various locations in Baltimore with his wife and three children until 1869.

Kennedy is generally regarded as one of the folk painters of the Prior-Hamblin School, named for brothers-in-law William Matthew Prior (1806-1873) and Sturtevant J. Hamblen (active 1837-1856). No direct link to these artists has yet been found, although Kennedy worked in Massachusetts at the same time Prior and Hamblen did, and lived a few doors away from Prior in Baltimore in the late 1850s.

Stylistically, Kennedy's crisp, flat likenesses strongly resemble the Prior and Hamblen portraits. His work can be distinguished from theirs by his consistent portrayal of his sitters with steeply sloping shoulders, squared noses, and small, pursed lips.

Sotheby's New York

Excerpted from Paul S. D'Ambrosio and Charlotte Emans, Folk Art's Many Faces: Portraits in the New York State Historical Association, Cooperstown, 1987, pp. 107, and Beatrix T. Rumford, ed., American Folk Portraits: Paintings and Drawings from the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Center, Boston, 1981, pp. 138-139.

Sotheby's New York

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
A painter of naive portraits, William W. Kennedy advertised "inexpensive paintings at one sitting." (Falk) He was an artist about whom little is known except that he was born in New Hampshire, and at age 37 was living in New Bedford, Massachusetts and then later lived in Connecticut and Maine before settling in Baltimore between 1849 and 1850.  He also did a series of Virginia paintings, indicating he likely was in eastern Virginia.

It is thought that he was influenced by William Matthew Prior in Baltimore because their studios were so close to each other.

Only 14 signed paintings are extant of Kennedy's, and 39 others have been found that closely resemble the 14 documented ones. Characteristic of his portrait-painting style is excessive shading around the nose, a single dark line between the lips, and simple, un-detailed hands.

Occasionally he would paint landscapes into the backgrounds of his subjects, and his women invariably had a rose in one of their hands, and men held books.

Michael David Zellman, 300 Years of American Art
Peter Hastings Falk, Editor, Who Was Who in American Art

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