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 Alban Jasper Conant  (1821 - 1915)

About: Alban Jasper Conant
 

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Lived/Active: Missouri/Vermont      Known for: portrait, landscape and harbor view painting, anthropolist, archaeologist

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Alban Jasper Conant
from Auction House Records.
Western River Scene
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Alban Jasper Conant Biography
 
Lived / Active
Missouri/ New York / Washington,DC /Illinois

Alban Jasper Conant was a triple A polymath – an artist, an archaeologist, and an anthropologist. As an artist, he painted a president, a war hero, judges, legislators, and members of prominent families. His portrait of the Smiling Lincoln was Mary Todd Lincoln’s favorite. As an archaeologist and an anthropologist, he wrote Footprints of Vanished Races in the Mississippi Valley: Being an Account of Some of the Monuments and Relics of Prehistoric Races Scattered Over Its Surface With Suggestions as to their Origin and Uses, which was published in 1879 and frequently reprinted, even as late as 2010.

He was a member of the Sociétié Ethnographique of Paris and the Anthropological Society of Washington, and a curator of the University of Missouri. In 1877, he wrote 11 chapters on the archaeology of Missouri for The Commonwealth of Missouri: A Centennial Record. His book, My Acquaintance with Abraham Lincoln appeared in 1893. In March 1909 McClure’s Magazine published “A portrait painter’s reminiscences of Lincoln” (Vol. 32, no. 5). When he was 89, he wrote and published his final book, A Visit to Washington, DC – 1861-62. He was known to play several instruments and to have a fine singing voice.

Alban Jasper Conant was born in Chelsea, Vermont, on September 24, 1821. His father was a cabinetmaker and sign painter, who descended from a soldier who fought in the Battle of Bunker Hill and survived Valley Forge. To earn money to study in New York at the National Academy of Design in the early 1840s, Alban taught music. During his stay in New York City, Henry Inman, one of the premier portrait artists of the day, encouraged him.

In 1845 A.J. Conant married Sarah Mahala Howes (1822-1867). They lived in Troy, New York, in 1850, and by 1860, Saint Louis. Biographies show the Conants moved west in 1857. In 1860, Conant was one of the founders of the Western Academy of Art. A patron commissioned him to paint the Republican presidential candidate, Abraham Lincoln, so he traveled to Illinois. Not long after, he was in Washington, DC, where he painted cabinet members, including the Attorney General Edward Bates, and the Secretary of War Edwin Stanton.

Sarah Conant died on October 30, 1867. In their twelve years of marriage, she bore eight children, four daughters, and four sons. Only three lived to adulthood. Conant remarried in 1869 in San Francisco. His bride was 22-year-old Briona Bryan (1847-1875). She gave him a fifth son, Alban Jasper Conant, Jr. She died at the age of 29.

Conant moved to Upper Alton, Illinois, before 1880. By 1887, he was in New York City in a studio at the famed 10th Street Studios, a studio he kept the rest of his life. He died February 3, 1915.

The Missouri Historical Society in Saint Louis owns over two dozen paintings by Alban Jasper Conant, including one of Abraham Lincoln. Individuals across the nation own more still. His portraits hang at the United States Department of Justice, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Amherst, Princeton, Colgate University, Dickinson College, the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library, the State Supreme Court of New York, and the New York Historical Society.

Submitted by Patricia Moss, Fine Art Investigations, Long Beach, Washington

Sources:
C R Barns; Alban Jasper Conant; William F Switzler; G C Swallow; R A Campbell; William Torrey Harris, The Commonwealth of Missouri: A Centennial Record (St. Louis, Bryan, Brand & Co., 1877), 703-706

Joseph A. Dacus, James William Buel, A tour of St. Louis: or, The inside life of a great city, (St. Louis, Missouri: Western Publishing Company, 1878), 71-75

“Painter Of Lincoln And Other Great Men Works At 92; Sitting in the Studio He Has Occupied for Thirty-two Years, Alban Jasper Conant Grows Reminiscent of the Distinguished Statesmen, Soldiers, Authors and Artists He Has Known,” New York Times, October 19, 1913

“Howell Van Blarcom Application”, U.S. Sons of the American Revolution Membership Applications, 1889-1970, Volume 165, Application Number 32994

Census of the United States, 1850, Troy Ward 3, Rensselaer, New York; Roll: M432_584; Page: 121A, Household of A. J. Conant, lines 27-31

Census of the United States, 1860, St Louis Ward 8, St Louis (Independent City), Missouri; Roll: M653_652; Page: 662, Household of A. J. Conant, lines 10-17

Census of the United States, 1870, St Louis Ward 5, St Louis, Missouri; Roll: M593_815; Page: 139B, Household of A. J. Conant, lines 19-27

Census of the United States, 1880, Upper Alton, Madison, Illinois; Roll: 233; Page: 206B, Household of A. J. Conant, lines 20-26

Census of the United States, 1900, Manhattan, New York, New York; Roll: 1085; Page: 5B Household of Alban J. Conant, lines 54-55

Census of the United States, 1900, Bayonne Ward 4, Hudson, New Jersey; Roll: 971; Page: 27A, Household of Amos W. Smith, lines 6-13 (line 12)

Census of the United States, 1910, 1910; Census Place: Manhattan Ward 15, New York, New York; Roll: T624_1031; Page: 4A, Household of Alban J. Conant, lines 48-49
 


This biography from the Archives of AskART:
The following is from Sue Hutchinson:

Mr. Conant was an uncle of my grandmother.  He gave my grandmother one of two copies of what has been referred to as the "Smiling Lincoln", painted two to three weeks prior to Lincoln's debate with Stephen Douglas. On the back of the painting was a letter signed by Conant telling of Mrs. Lincoln's reaction to the portrait.

Years ago I had a curator remove the letter from the back of the painting so that it could be framed side by side which I have done.  I also have a full page out of The New York Times dated 1909 that features Alban Conant then in his 90's and living in New York City.  I know that the other copy resides in Springfield Library.

What I would like to know is, where is the original portrait of the "Smiling Lincoln"?

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