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 Phineas Staunton  (1817 - 1867)

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Lived/Active: New York      Known for: portrait-miniature and life size

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Ad Code: 4
Phineas Staunton
from Auction House Records.
Portrait of Gordon H Amy
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
The following is submitted by Annette B. Peck, October 2003. She writes: "The research I have done on this artist is extensive. I have a check list for him of more than 140 works, and a list of source materials. I am continually looking for more of his work."

Short history of the life of PHINEAS STAUNTON (1817-1867)
By Annette B. Peck, August 1998

As a teenager Phineas Staunton taught himself to paint. He made his brushes and ground his own paints. He also vigorously trained for a military career under the insistence of his father.

At age 18 he accepted the challenge to bring a flock of 100 sheep home to his father's farm in Upper New York State. The distance was 200 miles and he did it on foot in two weeks. He had to carry his faithful footsore dog the last couple of days. A year later he escaped his father's grip to venture out for himself as an itinerant painter.

In the fall of 1837 he returned home after a year's absence. He deposited in front of his father the $1,400 he had saved. It was clear that this son had become very successful in being paid for his "primitive" portraits. The father, who had hoped to make a military man out of him, finally accepted his son's calling.

Phineas signed up at age 21 in 1838 as a student at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. In a remarkably short time he developed into a professional painter and miniaturist. Soon he established a studio in New York City. The way he reached Manhattan was by tracking on foot along the Hudson River painting portraits along the way.

A highly educated and idealistically Christian young woman Emily Eliza Ingham caught this accomplished young painter in her web. She enticed him to marry her and join her in the very missionary venture of her life. This was to educate intelligent young women, and produce valuable teachers for the further education of women. Phineas was a very God fearing man himself who was inspired by Emily's idealism. He felt attracted to the chance of teaching art in this woman's college in LeRoy, New York.

He must have been quite a secure man, because he did not feel threatened by the idea that his wife would be his boss. Their honeymoon in 1847 lasted for six months. It was a working trip to England, France and Italy. Phineas used his time to make a number of copies of paintings by the great masters. The products of his labors would become the start of a highly praised art collection for the LeRoy school.

From that time forward Phineas dedicated most of his time to teaching. He also helped his wife and her sister in the administration of this school that eventually became Ingham University.

In 1859 and 1860, he reestablished a studio for himself in New York City. It was there that he got himself ready for the Civil War. In the spring of 1861, he dashed back to LeRoy and helped assemble a regiment of volunteers to defend the Union. During a terrible fight he was wounded, but recovered enough to take on the leadership of his troops as acting Colonel Staunton. He resigned in October 1862 to return to help his wife run her very highly regarded school.

Later Phineas accepted the challenge to be the main artist on a scientific expedition by Williams College and the Smithsonian in 1867 to South America. He was planning to bring a lot of field finds back to LeRoy to help educate the students. He died at age 50 of an unknown tropical disease and was buried in Quito, Equador in September that year.

His wife erected within three years after his death on the University grounds a magnificent museum of arts and sciences called the Staunton Conservatory. It held a large part of the Amazon expedition materials as well as the extensive art collection of the school.

Staunton dedicated his life to art education and the continued improvement of expressing himself on canvas. We see in him an artist who had more modesty than most, and is therefore not well recognized until this day.

References of Books and Periodicals in which Phineas Staunton is mentioned.

Young, Andrew. W., History of the town of Warsaw, New York, 1869.

Stowits, Geo. H., History of the One Hundredth Regiment of New York State Volunteers, 1870.

Orton, James, M.A., The Andes and the Amazon, 1870.

Myers, H.M. and P.V.N., Life and Nature under the Tropics, 1871.

Hough, Franklin B., American Biographical Notes, 1875.

Van Lennep, Henry J., D.D., Ingham University: A University for Women in Le Roy, N.Y., 1876.

McIntosh, W.H., History of Monroe County, New York. 1877.

The Art Commission of the City of New York, Catalogue of the Works of Art belonging to the City Of New York, 1909.

"Staunton, P.P., Worthy Tribute to Col. Staunton",
The Le Roy Gazette and News, July 9, 1913

Sherman, Frederic Fairchild, Unrecorded Early American Portrait Painters,
Art in America, December 1933

New Jersey Historical Records Survey Project, 1440 Early American Portrait Artists, 1940

Sketch of Life of Le Roy Artist, The Le Roy Gazette News, Sept. 17, 1942

Rutledge, Anna W., Artists in the Life of Charleston, S.C., 1949.

Douglas, Harry S., The Phineas Stauntons, Historical Wyoming, July 1951

Young, William, Dictionary of American Artists, 1968.

Thompson, Ruth Farr, "A Biographical Checklist of Artists in New Orleans in the Nineteenth Century", Master thesis, L.S.U. 1970.

Russell, Marian A., First Women's University Flourished at Le Roy, The Daily News,
of Batavia N.Y., July 2, 1976

Yarnall, James L. and Gerdts, William H., The National Museum of Art's, Index to American Art Exhibition Catalogues, through the 1876 Centennial Year, 1986.

Peck, Emily, A True Story, 1914, Historical Wyoming, January, 1988

Wing, Richard L., Phineas Staunton: Ingham University's Semi Renaissance Man,
Le Roy Historical Society, publication April 1988

Manthorne, Katherine Emma, Tropical Renaissance, North American Artists Exploring Latin America, 1839-1879, Smithsonian Institution Press, 1989.

Wing, Richard L., Ingham University, 1857- 1892, Ph.D. dissertation, SUNY, Buffalo, May, 1990

Peck, Annette B., Phineas Sta(u)nton, Maine Antique Digest, September 1995

Thacher, Mary and Peck, Annette B., Phineas Stanton, Historical Footnotes, Stonington Historical Society, May 1997.

(Belluscio, Lynne), Phineas Staunton, The Artist, Le Roy Historical Society, #1, 2003.

Inventory of American Painters, National Museum of American Art // Smithsonian Inst. (always updated to latest edition, look under Stanton)

Catalog of American Portraits, National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C.
(always updated to latest edition, look under Staunton)

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