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 Oliver Tarbell Eddy  (1799 - 1868)

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Lived/Active: Vermont      Known for: portrait, genre, engraving

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Ad Code: 3
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from Auction House Records.
Portrait of Mrs. Henry Evans
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
Biography from Schwarz Gallery:
Oliver Tarbell Eddy was born in Greenbush, Vermont, the oldest son of inventor, printer, and engraver Isaac Eddy, who traced his ancestry back to the Mayflower. Although his father instructed him how to engrave on copper, Eddy evidently taught himself how to paint. 

He married Jane Maria Burger, daughter of the silversmith Thomas Burger, in Newburgh, New York in 1822.  Eddy was active as a portrait and miniature painter in New York City by 1826, and exhibited a portrait at the National Academy of Design the following year.  He moved to Elizabeth, New Jersey, in 1831 and then to Newark in 1835.  William H. Gerdts has suggested that he relocated to Newark because a distant relative, the Reverend Ansel Doane Eddy, was pastor of the First Presbyterian Church.  The artist was extremely successful in Newark and painted at least thirteen portraits of members of the family of a hat manufacturer named William Rankin.  Eddy lived in Baltimore from 1842 to 1850, painting portraits and inventing a precursor to the typewriter.  He lived in Philadelphia from 1850 until his death and was buried in Woodlands Cemetery. 

Gerdts characterizes Eddy as “something of a Newark equivalent of [Henry] Inman in New York City” because he followed the period’s compositional conventions of portraiture.  Nevertheless, the artist worked in a highly distinctive style characterized by a pronounced degree of naiveté.  His ill-proportioned figures are generally stiff and wooden, set in self-conscious formal poses, and often possess an aura of haunting solemnity.  Eddy consistently represented accessories such as floor coverings, furniture, windows draped with fringed curtains, and his sitters’ costumes in a meticulously detailed manner.  He produced some remarkable large, complex multi-figure portraits such as the Children of William Rankin, Sr. (1838, The Newark Museum), and the Children of Mr. and Mrs. Israel Griffith (c. 1844, Maryland Historical Society, Baltimore).

Sources include:
1. William H. Gerdts, Art Across America: Two Centuries of Regional Painting, 1710–1920 (New York: Abbeville Press, 1990), vol. 1, p. 230.
2. The standard study of Eddy is Edith Bishop, Oliver Tarbell Eddy, 1799–1868 [exh. cat.] (Newark, N.J.: The Newark Museum, 1950).
3. Gerdts, Art Across America, vol. 1, p. 231.

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