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 James K. Frothingham  (1786 - 1864)

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Lived/Active: New York/Massachusetts      Known for: portrait painting, some miniature

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
The son of a maker of carriage bodies, James Frothingham was born in Charlestown, Massachusetts, near Boston in 1786.  He began his life as a chaise painter in his father's chaise factory, where he taught himself to paint the finished coaches. He experimented in sketching and taught himself the principles of portraiture.  By 1806, he had become a professional painter, after receiving minimal instruction from an obscure student of Gilbert Stuart named Fabius Whiting, a younger artist based in Lancaster.

Frothingham began his training by painting portraits of family members; by about age 20 he had abandoned the carriage-making trade for full-time portrait work.  During this early stage of his career he visited Gilbert Stuart, who was to have a profound influence on his later development.  Although unimpressed by Frothingham's first efforts, Stuart eventually helped Frothingham, who later incorporated elements of Stuart's style into his own work, especially the transparent flesh tones.  Frothingham also tended to avoid the slick finish of mid-century portraiture, keeping alive the more painterly English manner domesticated in America by Stuart.  A prolific artist, Frothingham rarely indicated background elements in his portraits, but concentrated instead on capturing an alert gaze and a general sense of liveliness in his sitters.

Before moving to New York City in 1826 with his wife and three children, he painted in Boston and Salem, Massachusetts for more than a decade.  Soon he began exhibiting at the Boston Athenaeum (despite his recent move) and the National Academy of Design.  The latter institution elected him an associate member in 1828 and a full academician in 1831.  He served as its corresponding secretary in 1844. Frothingham was particularly active during the 1830s, but his production fell off at about age 60.  He spent the last two decades of his life in Brooklyn, where he died in 1864.  His daughter Sarah became a painter of miniatures.

Many of his portraits are owned by the City of New York; several others, including that of the poet William Cullen Bryant (1833) are in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Massachusetts.  James Frothingham died in 1864.

Sources include:
Matthew Baigell, Dictionary of American Artists
Peter Hastings Falk, Editor, Who Was Who in American Art
Bibliographic References

* Dunlap 1834, 2:212-217.
* Tuckerman 1867, 61-62.
* Kelly, Franklin, with Nicolai Cikovsky, Jr., Deborah Chotner, and John Davis. American Paintings of the Nineteenth Century, Part I. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, D.C., 1996: 232-233.

** If you discover credit omissions or have additional information to add, please let us know at
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