|This biography from the Archives of AskART:|
|A teacher at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Thomas Sully
became one of the foremost early 19th-century portrait painters, known
for painting pretty faces on his subjects, often disregarding reality.|
was the son of English actors and was born in Horncastle, Lincolnshire.
He came to Philadelphia in 1792 when he was nine years old. Sully
showed early drawing talent and first studied with his older brother,
Lawrence, a miniature painter. To earn money, he tried
unsuccessfully to have a career in insurance but then turned full time
to painting and was able to be critiqued by Gilbert Stuart in
Boston. He embraced Stuart's interest in classical styles, but
favored pretty colors and opaque and glossy surfaces. Like Stuart, his
subjects appear heroic and seem to have a sense of purpose.
1801, he moved with Lawrence's family to Virginia, but Lawrence died,
so Thomas cared for the family and married the widow two years
later. In 1808, accepting an attractive offer from a patron, he
moved to Philadelphia for the remainder of his life excepting the new
two years when a syndicate of patrons sent him to England to paint and
study. He returned with a copy of an Old Master painting for each
His twenty-three year old daughter, Blanch,
accompanied him to England where he did a portrait of Queen Victoria, a
commission filled from a request through the Philadelphia chapter of
the Society of the Sons of Saint George. Blanch substituted for
the Queen in many of the sittings, and even wore the British crown, the
only American ever to have this distinction. She also modeled in
Victoria's state robes. The Queen was extremely pleased with the
portrait, which was finished in Philadelphia.
In Philadelphia, Sully shared a studio with Charles Bird King, portrait painter, and taught at the Academy.
Michael David Zellman, 300 Years of American Art
|Biography from Charleston Renaissance Gallery:|
|THOMAS SULLY (1783-1872)|
Born in England to actor parents, Thomas Sully began his artistic career painting miniatures in Charleston, South Carolina. He later received advice from such established artists as Henry Benbridge, John Trumbull and Gilbert Stuart before returning to England for a year of study with Sir Thomas Lawrence and others. Sully settled in Philadelphia in 1810, where he soon established himself as America’s leading portraitist, a reputation he maintained for more than fifty years.
Sully was to American art what Lawrence was in England, the creator of a romantic style of portraiture--elegant, refined, reflective and immensely popular. Indeed, he was arguably the most admired portraitist of the Romantic era in the United States. Over the course of his long career, Sully produced over twenty-six hundred works, approximately two thousand of which were portraits. The remainder were landscapes, genre and thematic figurative works Sully termed “fancy pictures,” paintings intended for the decoration of the drawing rooms and parlors of his wealthy clients. A sleeping baby, with or without its mother, was one of the artist’s favorite “fancy” subjects.
Nancy Rivard Shaw, 1999© Robert M. Hicklin Jr., Inc.
Fabian, Monroe, H. "Mr. Sully, Portrait Painter: The Works of Thomas Sully (1783-1872)". Washington, D.C.: National Portrait Gallery/Smithsonian Institution, 1983).
"Thomas Sully, 1783-1872". Farmville, Virginia: Longwood College, 1973.
Tuckerman, Henry T. "Book of the Artists". 1867.
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Thomas Sully is also mentioned in these AskART essays:
San Francisco Panama-Pacific Exhibition 1915