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 William Smith Jewett  (1812 - 1873)

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Lived/Active: California/New York/Massachusetts      Known for: portrait, landscape and genre painting

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Ad Code: 3
William Smith Jewett
from Auction House Records.
Jupiter's Spires, Yosemite Valley
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
William Smith Jewett, whose name is often confused with William Jewett, became a prominent American portrait painter during the mid-1800s. He was born in South Dover, New York in 1812, and was painting portraits there by 1833.  Jewett studied at the National Academy of Design, enrolling in the Antique Class in 1838, and the following spring he began exhibiting portraits at the Academy's annual exhibitions. Although he is best known for portraiture, he occasionally painted landscapes as well including Yosemite National Park.

Early in his career he was commissioned to paint the portrait of the governor of New York, which reinforced his position as a painter in the New York area.

Jewett caught gold fever in 1849 and moved to California to take up mining and to take advantage of the nouveau riche as portrait subjects. By December of that year he had settled in San Francisco and having little luck at gold mining, focused on portraiture, which judging by the numbers he finished, suggest only modest success.  Many of his subjects were California's prominent citizens and he gained the distinction of being the first professionally trained painter to live and work in San Francisco.

Jewett became a wealthy man from his shrewd real estate investments, and in 1869 he moved back to New York City where he failed to reclaim his previous stature as a portrait painter.

In 1871, he married Elizabeth Dunbar, the wife of a California patron, and he and his wife embarked on a honeymoon of returning to California and then touring Europe. Due to his failing health, they returned to the United States where he died in Springfield, Massachusetts in 1873.

Edan Hughes, Artists in California, 1786-1940
Jonathan P. Harding, Paintings and Sculpture in the Collection of the National Academy of Design, 1826-1925, David Dearinger, Editor

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