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Samuel Fanshaw

 (1814 - 1888)
Samuel Raymond Fanshaw was active/lived in New York.  Samuel Fanshaw is known for miniature portrait painting on ivory, still life painting, pottery, photography.

Samuel Fanshaw

Biography from the Archives of askART

Samuel Raymond Fanshaw was born in Pound Ridge, N.Y. on December 21, 1814.  He was the son of Samuel and Helen Raymond Fanshaw.  By 1835, historical records indicate that the young artist had relocated from his home in northern Westchester County to New York City.  While studying at the National Academy of Design in 1838, Fanshaw married his first wife, Mary. Two years later, the couple had a son, Samuel Albert, the eldest of their five children.  The census of the time listed Samuel R. Fanshaw as a miniature painter with a studio on Cortlandt Street.

The following is an excerpt on Fanshaw's artistic training and career from Paintings and Sculpture in the Collection of the National Academy of Design, 1826-1925:  "Samuel Fanshaw was active as a painter of miniatures and portraits.  A Fanshaw (without given name or initials) was enrolled in the Academy school's antique class for the 1835-36 season; but it is surely Samuel Fanshaw who was enrolled in the antique and life classes for 1838-39 and for the life class only for 1839-40.  In this latter year, his registration entry is noted as "M[iniature] Painter" indicating he had already reached the point where a professional designation was warranted….

The best source of information on his career seems to be the eulogy read at the Council meeting of January 7, 1889: 'In his earlier Professional life, he was a prominent member of the group of clever artists, which included Shumway, White, Officer, Cummings, Newcome and others who successfully practiced the then favorable and fashionable art of Miniature Painting, and many graceful portraits of the Ladies and gentlemen from his facile pencil adorned the Academy Exhibitions. Upon the decline of and practical extinction of his charming art, through the advent of the Photograph (c. 1839), he like others in his special walk, adapted himself to the altered demands of the age, and painted in connection with the new process, but always in the best and highest manner.'

"Fanshaw's adaptation was most likely working at coloring photographs, an adjustment to the times common among miniaturists.  However, he apparently found more than one alternate artistic pursuit to sustain his career.  His participation in Academy annuals was erratic: he showed several works nearly every year from 1839 through 1848.  Nine years passed before he was next represented, in the annual of 1857.  There followed another gap of several years until, in 1863, he resumed exhibiting again; he remained a frequent exhibitor until the end of his life.   But where he had shown only portraits and miniatures through the 1857 exhibition, from 1863 on he showed fruit still lifes and only the occasional portrait."

The 1870 census describes Fanshaw as a portrait painter living with his wife and family in Morrisania, then part of Westchester County but shortly thereafter annexed to New York City. It appears that Fanshaw's wife, Mary, died sometime after this census was taken.  The artist later remarried, wedding Augusta Versey of Brooklyn in 1880. He continued to work actively and exhibit for his remaining years.

Samuel Fanshaw passed away on December 15, 1888 in New York City.  A portrait of the artist as a young man, painted by James Cafferty, still hangs in the National Academy's collection.

In his lifetime, Fanshaw was a financially successful and respected artist. Critical acclaim for his work, especially in the field of miniatures, has only grown over time. Today, Fanshaw is properly acknowledged as a premier artist in the world of 19th century American miniatures:  "Samuel Fanshaw's portrait of Harriet Sophia Richards (1822-1893) … is a significant discovery that introduces a new name to the front rank of American miniature painting…. Of the only five Fanshaw miniatures known today, this is the finest.  Moreover, it competes with the best work of any American master of the period." 
Source: Commentary from the website of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

The artist painted finely detailed miniatures as watercolors over graphite, typically on ivory and other media such as porcelain paper.  Known examples of his miniatures include: Portraits of John N. & Mary G. Slee -1840 (Vassar); Portrait of Dr. William Wilson - circa 1840 (private collection); Portraits of George & Sarah B. Coggeshall - circa 1840 (NY Historical Society); Portraits of Mr. & Mrs. Cornelius Ver Bryck - 1841- 42 (; Portrait of Sophie Richards - 1841 (Philadelphia Museum of Art); Reference to Portrait of Charles Butler  - October 1842 (Frick & Smithsonian records); Portrait of Olivia Langdon, wife of Samuel Clemens, also known as Mark Twain - 1864.  "Clemens said in 1906 that he first saw Olivia 'in the form of an ivory miniature' on the Quaker City.  No painting on ivory survives, but this miniature portrait on cardboard (by S. R. Fanshaw) was in Clemens' possession at the time of his death." Source:

Examples of larger works by Fanshaw are: (Self) Portrait of Samuel Fanshaw, an oil on canvas affixed to masonite - circa 1841; Hanging Pear - 1862; Portrait of a Maiden -1863; Basket of Fruit - 1866; Grapes on a Vine - 1867; Still Life of Apple  - 1881; and Portrait of a Schoolboy in an Interior  - 1884.

Art references for Fanshaw's work include, but are not limited to, the following: Paintings and Sculpture in the Collection of the National Academy of Design, 1826-1925 by David Dearinger (2004); Who Was Who in American Art by P. Falk (1999); NAD Exhibition Record, 1861 - 1900 by Maria Naylor (1973); The New-York Historical Society's Dictionary of Artists in America, 1564-1860 by G. Groce & D. Wallace (1957); NAD Exhibition Record, 1826-1860 by M. Cowdrey (1943); and Early American Portrait Painters in Miniature by Theodore Bolton (1921).

Other sources of information contained in this biography are as follows: various 19th century directories for New York City, genealogical records, census information, online collections of the Smithsonian & Frick Museums, archives of the Mark Twain Project, et. al.

Miscellaneous Notes:
a)  Longworth's American Almanac of 1835 reports S. Fanshaw's occupation as a potter.

b)  The book, Early American Portrait Painters in Miniature, states: "Fanshaw exhibited a number of miniatures at the National Academy exhibitions from 1841 to 1847.  [Examples] 1 to 6. "A Frame of Six Miniatures. "  7. N. A. Exhibition, 1847.  Mr. George Clark. Exhibition, Newport, R. I. 1890. 8. Mrs. George Clark. Exhibition, Newport, R. I. 1890."

c)  Samuel Raymond and Mary Fanshaw had five children: Samuel Albert (1840), Albert (1842), Emma (1844), Julia (1846) and Alexander (1851). Samuel Albert died in the Civil War and his correspondence may be found in the Samuel A. Fanshaw Collection of the Sixth Cavalry, New York Volunteers.  Samuel R. Fanshaw had an interest in Spiritualism which may have developed after the death of his beloved eldest son in battle.  Refer to The Strange Case of William Mumler, Spirit Photographer by L. Kaplan (2008) and The Spiritual Magazine (1869).

d)  In the photography book, The Silver Sunbeam (1866), Fanshaw wrote: "This is to certify that I have painted several pictures on the paper known as Brinckerhoff's Porcelain Surface Paper and I do not hesitate to say that it is the very best Photographic Paper for coloring that I have ever used…"

e)  Published addresses for the artist include: Studio/business at 1 Cortlandt Street and a home address of 280 Henry Street (1840 census); b. 1 Cortlandt h. 249 Seventh (Doggetts NYC Directory, 1848); b. 835 Broadway, h. Morrisania (NYC Directory, 1870); b. 836 Broadway (Trow's, 1872); b. 835 Broadway corner east 13th St, h. Fulton Ave n. 170th (Gouldings, 1877).

f)  Fanshaw was designated as an Associate of the National Academy (A.N.A.) in 1841.  The artist exhibited at the National Academy of Design (intermittently from 1839 to 1887), at the American Institute (1844), and at the Brooklyn Art Association (1867-68, 1881).

Written by Tina Kasper of Pelham Manor, New York (copyright 2013).

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About  Samuel Fanshaw

Born:  1814 - Pound Ridge, New York
Died:   1888 - New York City
Known for:  miniature portrait painting on ivory, still life painting, pottery, photography