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 Ruth Henshaw Miles Bascom  (1772 - 1848)

About: Ruth Henshaw Miles Bascom
 

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Lived/Active: Massachusetts      Known for: naive mixed-media profile portrait, stitchery, pastel portrait painting

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BIOGRAPHY for Ruth Bascom
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Birth
1772 (Leicester, Massachusetts)
 
Death
1848 (Ashby, Massachusetts)

Lived/Active
Massachusetts

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naive mixed-media profile portrait, stitchery, pastel portrait painting

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Ruth Henshaw Bascom was born in Leicester, Massachusetts.  Her life and career as a portraitist are exceptionally well documented, owing to the existence of the journal she kept from 1789 through 1846, in which she recorded more than one-thousand likenesses.

After the death of her first husband in 1805, the artist married the Reverend Ezekiel Bascom and settled in Gerry (now Phillipston), Massachusetts, where she was a teacher, church record keeper, librarian, hat maker, and artist.  In 1821 the Bascoms moved to Ashby, Massachusetts, and by 1828 Ruth was producing about forty portraits a year, working in Ashby, Cambridge Port, Boston, and Athol, Massachusetts.

After Reverend Bascom's failing health forced him to spend winters in Savannah, Georgia, Ruth stayed behind and traveled in central Massachusetts and parts of Maine painting portraits.  The couple lived briefly in Fitzwilliam, New Hampshire where Reverend Bascom died in 1841.

Ruth Henshaw Bascom died in Ashby in 1848.

Bascom's more than two-hundred extant portraits are all rendered in life-size profile, reflecting her method of capturing in pencil the shadowed outline of a sitter cast on a wall by a light source. These outlines would then be filled in with further pencil drawing for facial features and clothing, and pastel crayons for color.  Bascom often applied necklaces earrings, and glasses made of gold foil paper, and periodically altered profiles and updated costumes as subjects aged and styles changed.


Sources include:
Lois S. Avigad, "Ruth Henshaw Bascom: A Youthful Viewpoint'', The Clarion, vol. 12 (Fall 1987) pp. 35-41;
Paul S. D'Ambrosio and Charlotte Emans, Folk Art's Many Faces: Portraits in the New York State Historical Association, Cooperstown, 1987, pp. 30-31.
Retrieved from: Sotheby's New York

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
A painter of life-size profile portraits of neighbors and relatives in Massachusetts, she was truly an original in her techniques and was in her mid-forties when she began to paint.  Because she was a 'lady,' she had no interest in taking money for her portraits.

She did her likenesses by having the model cast a shadow upon a piece of paper that she traced and then colored with pastel.  From there, her work became a kind of collage or assemblage because she glued on shiny beads, attached tinfoil eyeglasses, and sometimes put charming landscapes behind.

She was born in Leicester, Massachusetts, the oldest of ten children whose father was an organizer of the Minutemen during the Revolutionary War.  She was raised in Worcester, and in 1804 married Dr. Asa Miles, a Dartmouth College professor who only lived two years after the marriage.  She then married Reverend Ezekiel Bascom and moved to many locations in New England where he had preaching assignments. Much of her work was done in Gill, Massachusetts.

The journals she kept of her life are in the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester, and among her notes is a method for painting a rug on a floor.

Source:
American Women Artists by Charlotte Streifer Rubinstein


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