1785 (Newport, Rhode Island)
1862 (Washington, District Of Columbia)
District Of Columbia
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Often Known For
Indian portrait, genre and still-life painting
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San Francisco Panama-Pacific Exhibition 1915
|This biography from the Archives of AskART:|
|Born in Newport, Rhode Island, Charles Bird King became famous for his
portraits of distinguished Native Americans. He studied with
Samuel King, colonial painter, and then at age 15, ran away to New York
City where he worked in the studio of Edward Savage. From 1805 to
1812, he lived in London, studying with Benjamin West and sharing a
studio with Thomas Sully. |
In 1816, he settled in Washington
D.C., becoming the city's first significant resident artist. He
did portraits of politicians and then spent 16 years on a commission to
paint members of a five-tribe Indian delegation, which came to the city
in 1821. The results became the basis of the National Indian
Portrait Gallery. The originals burned, but lithography copies
He did an occasional still life, some of them in trompe l'oeil style including The Vanity of an Artist's Dream, which shows dusty, dilapidated books, stale food, and debris from an artist's studio. Another work, Still Life Game, has dark tones and melancholy mood and highly realistic rendering.
Groce & Wallace, The New York Historical Society's Dictionary of Artists in America
Peter Hastings Falk, Editor, Who Was Who in American Art
|Biography from Altermann Galleries and Auctioneers, III:|
|Charles Bird King|
Born: Newport, Rhode Island 1785
Died: Washington, DC 1862
Very important portrait painter specializing in Indians
King was as a boy the pupil of Samuel King in Newport, then of Edward Savage in New York, and finally of Benjamin West in London for seven years along with Thomas Sully. After failing with a Philadelphia studio he opened in 1812, King moved to Washington, DC in 1816 where he was the “principal artist-in-residence less by his painting skill than by a bachelor’s pleasant manner while eating out.” King thus “smiled his way to success as a mediocre portraitist,” although as a still-life painter he “made loveliness out of ruined things.”
In 1821, King was commissioned by Thomas L McKenney, Superintendent of Indian Trade, to paint portraits of eight Western Indians brought to Washington “to visit their Great White Father” to become impressed with his strength. King went on to paint about 90 portraits of Indians visiting Washington, to comprise by 1837 the nucleus of the National Indian Portrait Gallery. All but three of these were lost in the Smithsonian fire in 1865. Today these paintings exist in the many replicas King is said to have painted, as well as copies known to have been made by Henry Inman and others. In addition the portraits were duplicated in “faithful and colorful lithographs” illustrating McKenney and Hall’s three-volume work published 1836-44. And finally, the lithographs themselves were widely copied.
Resource: SAMUELS’ Encyclopedia of ARTISTS of THE AMERICAN WEST,
Peggy and Harold Samuels, 1985, Castle Publishing
|Biography from Charleston Renaissance Gallery:|
|CHARLES BIRD KING (1785-1862)|
Lauded as Washington, D.C.'s first significant resident artist, Charles Bird King studied in New York with Edward Savage and in London with Benjamin West. At the time, West had all but abandoned portraiture for history painting, but King benefited from West's instruction and gained access to the studios of the best English portrait painters. Returning to America in 1812, he worked briefly in Philadelphia and Baltimore before settling in the nation's capital.
Of the hundreds of pictures King painted, the best known are his portraits of Indians and of prominent local citizens and national leaders. King enriched the life of the city in other ways as well. In addition to the Indian Gallery, begun in 1821, his own studio was a favorite retreat for artists and lovers of art. King often painted replicas or copies of his portraits, probably to enhance his gallery, and he also painted variant views. His finest pictures, including Mrs. John Quincy Adams (National Collection of Fine Arts, Washington, D.C.) and Henry Clay and John Calhoun (Corcoran Gallery, Washington, D.C.) were painted in the 1820s.
This essay is copyrighted by the Charleston Renaissance Gallery and may not be reproduced or transmitted without written permission from Hicklin Galleries, LLC.
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