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 Bass Otis  (1784 - 1861)

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Lived/Active: Pennsylvania/Massachusetts      Known for: portrait, some genre-narrative

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Bass Otis
from Auction House Records.
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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
A prolific portrait painter, he was born in Bridgewater, Massachusetts, the son of a blacksmith. Although basically self taught, he was a student of John Wesley Jarvis, Gilbert Stuart, and Thomas Sully. He was also apprenticed to a scythe maker, something that was common at that time among aspiring painters who developed skills in crafts to earn a living.

In the early 1800s, he worked in the studio of painter John Wesley Jarvis whose influence can be seen in many of Otis' works. In 1812, he moved to Philadelphia and became an art teacher and one of America's most prolific portrait painters, doing over 200 subjects including portraits for a national biography series of the New York State Historical Association. Some of his subjects were Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Thomas Paine and Gilbert Stuart. His portrait of Jefferson is considered the best of the series.

Otis was the innovator of the "perspective protractor," a device that assisted portrait painters in maintaining proportionality of a figure to his or her surroundings.

He also painted industrial scenes such as iron foundry interiors and was a lithographer. In 1824, he was elected a member of the Philadelphia Academy of the Fine Arts.

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