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 George Bridport  (1783 - 1819)

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Lived/Active: Pennsylvania/District Of Columbia / England      Known for: architectural decoration, engraving

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
A decorative painter whose career began in England, George Bridport had emigrated to the United States by 1808, and used his talents primarily in Philadelphia but also spent time on architectural decoration on the Capitol Building in Washington DC.  Many decorative painters have remained anonymous, but Bridport's name remains in the art history books because he was strongly promoted by Philadelphia architect Benjamin Latrobe, and his notes contain many references to Bridport.

George Bridport was born in London and was baptized at Saint Marylebone Church in Middlesex on April 20, 1793.  Little is known of his early art training or career as he is not on the registry list of public painters, glazers or architectural draftsmen, and he was not a guild member.  In 1806, he described himself as an architect when he submitted a design for a decorative ceiling, and in 1807, he used a trade card that listed his talents which included decorating drawing rooms in many styles including French, Chinese, Gothic and Indian, and also offered his services for house painting.  The front of the card gave his address as Cavendish Street in a fashionable area near Saint Marylebone Church.

Arrriving in the United States about 1808, Bridport was urged by Latrobe to join him in Washington DC.  He did so, and received much acclaim for the decorative work he did on the ceiling of the House of Representatives.  However, this work was destroyed in 1814, when the British burned the Capitol.

In 1809, he painted the ceremonial oval drawing room of the President's house, and also decorated a temporary Senate Chamber.  Of Bridport's work, Latrobe wrote to a banker who was considering Bridport for ceiling decoration of his bank:  "Mr. Bridport. . .knows exactly what ought to be done.  He understands his business well.  He is a very excellent artist, by profession, what is called, a decorative Architect. . .he is besides a sober responsible man of business." (76)

The 1810 census lists Bridport, a "Decorator", living in Philadelphia on Market and Tenth Streets, but three years later, he is listed as an "Ornamental" painter.  By 1816, he is running a drawing academy with his brother, Hugh Bridport (1794-1870).  The next year, George Bridport advertises himself as a "decorative architect and furnisher on the northwest corner of Seventh and Chestnut".  He stated that he "could supply everything from carpets to looking-glass plates, and that his 'arrangements in Europe will enable him to offer Goods of superior quality & fashion." (78)

In 1819, he left for Cuba and died the next year.  Although he had based himself in Philadelphia, like so many artists of that era, he was itinerant and had clients whose homes he decorated in Baltimore, Washington DC, Richmond Virginia and rural Maryland.  Not only did he do basic decoration, but he and his brother were respected engravers who worked for silversmiths and architects, adapting designs to formal watercolor and gouache paintings.  Bridport was associated with Gideon Fairman (1774-1827), an internationally respected engraver and draftsman.

Eleanor H. Gustafson, Editor, "Collector's Notes", The Magazine Antiques, May 2006, pp. 76-80.

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