American 18-19th Century Figurative and Portrait Art



This section of the Traditional Fine Arts Organization (TFAO) catalogue Topics in American Art is devoted to the topic "American 18-19th Century Figurative and Portrait Art." Articles and essays specific to this topic published in TFAO's Resource Library are listed at the beginning of the section. Clicking on titles takes readers directly to these articles and essays. The date at the end of each title is the Resource Library publication date.

After articles and essays from Resource Library are links to valuable online resources found outside our website. Links may be to museums' articles about exhibits, plus much more topical information based on our online searches. Following online resources may be information about offline resources including museums, DVDs, and paper-printed books, journals and articles.

We recommend that readers search within the TFAO website to find detailed information for any topic. Please see our page How to research topics not listed for more information.


(above: Gilbert Stuart, President George Washington, c. 1796, oil on canvas, 29.375 x 24.125 inches, El Paso Museum of Art. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons*)


(above: Charles Willson Peale, George Washington, c. 1780-1782, oil on canvas, 50 x 40 inches,  Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons*)


Our 68 Resource Library articles and essays honoring the American experience through its art:


2010 - 2016 5

2007 - 2009 10

2005-2006 7

2003-2004 11

2001-2002 12

1999-2000 19

1997-1998 4

Also see Miniature Painting


(above: John Singleton Copley, The Copley Family, 1776-1777, oil on canvas,184.10 mm (7.24 in) x  229.20 mm (9.02 in), National Gallery of Art)


(above: John La Farge, The Golden Age, 1878, oil on canvas, 34.6 x 16.5 inches, Smithsonian American Art Museum. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons*)


(above: James Wells Champney, Returning from Harvesting, 1874, oil on board, 17 x 13 inches. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons*)

From other websites:

In October 2012 The Metropolitan Museum of Art launched MetPublications, an online resource that offers in-depth access to the Museum's print and online publications, covering art, art history, archaeology, conservation, and collecting. Titles relating to American representational art available for free viewing via.pdf download or online reading as of 2013 include: American Portrait Miniatures in the Manney Collection; Johnson, Dale T. (1990) Accessed August, 2015.

American Portraits from the Cleveland Museum of Art, an exhibit held August 29 - December 17, 2006 at Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College. Accessed August, 2015.

Annotations: George Cooke & Thomas Hope and the Influence of Antiquity, an exhibit held February 5, 2012 - July 22, 2012 at the Columbus Museum. Includes an online companion devoted to the exhibit. Accessed August, 2015.

The Business of Bodies: Ellen Emmet Rand  is a 2018 exhibit at the Benton Museum, U of CT, Storrs which says: "This exhibition looks to assert Rand's crucial place in the history of American art and critically consider the ways this artist negotiated her own career, family, and finances in modern, commercially-savvy ways."Also see entry in Wikipedia.  Accessed 11/18

Deacon Peckham's Hobby Horse, an exhibit held May 27 - October 8, 2012 at the National Gallery of Art. Includes 48-page exhibit brochure and press materials. Accessed August, 2015.

Great Expectations: John Singer Sargent Painting Children, an exhibit held October 8, 2004 - January 16, 2005 at the Brooklyn Museum. From the Brooklyn Museum. Accessed August, 2015.

In Dialogue: Cecilia Beaux's "Twilight Confidences" is a 2020 exhibit at the Georgia Museum of Art which says: "In the exhibition, "Twilight Confidences" appears alongside three studies for the picture in various media and techniques (all on loan from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts), in order to show the rigorous yet experimental process Beaux followed in producing this important picture. Although Beaux would not paint out-of-doors again after leaving France in 1889, the lessons of "Twilight Confidences" -- light and color as both constructive and expressive elements in painting, and white as a container of all colors -- would inform her figure paintings for decades afterward." Accessed 11/20

Securing the Shadow: Posthumous Portraiture in America is a 2016 exhibit at the American Folk Art Museum which says: "Securing the Shadow is a contemplation of American self-taught portraiture through the lens of memory and loss."  Accessed 8/18 

Thomas Sully: Painted Performance, an exhibit held October 11, 2013-January 5, 2014 at the Milwaukee Art Museum. Accessed February, 2015.


(above: John Singleton Copley, Thaddeus Burr, Public domain, c. 1758-60, oil on canvas, 50.7 x 39.7 inches, Saint Louis Art Museum. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons*)


"Political Portraiture in the United States and France during the Revolutionary and Federal Eras circa 1776-1814" at National Portrait Gallery, September 25 & 26, 2014, National Portrait Gallery, Washington, DC, from the Terra Foundation for American Art Web page linking to audio and video resources. Accessed October, 2015.

The WGBH/Boston Forum Network is an audio and video streaming web site dedicated to curating and serving live and on-demand lectures, including a number of videos on Art and Architecture. Partners include a number of museums, colleges, universities and other cultural organizations. See listings of related videos in this catalogue indexed by partner name. Boston Athenaeum partnered with the WGBH Forum Network for a series of lectures on American art by David Dearinger, who is Susan Morse Hilles Curator of Paintings and Sculpture at the Boston Athenaeum. An art historian and curator, he received his Ph.D. from the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, with a specialty in nineteenth-century American art. Titles include: Familar Faces: Gilbert Stuart's George & Martha Washington (53 minutes) is an illustrated lecture by Ellen Miles, curator, National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian in which she "... discusses Gilbert Stuart's creation in 1796 of his very familiar life portrait of George Washington, together with its companion portrait of Martha Washington, often known as the 'Athenaeum portraits' because they were owned by the Boston Athenaeum for more than 150 years. Ellen Miles describes the relationship between the Washingtons and the artist, the reason for the incomplete composition of the two portraits, and the immediate and lasting success of the portrait of the President, in contrast to the relative obscurity of the portrait of Martha Washington."; Life Drawing in 19th Century America, (55 minutes) an illustrated lecture by Elliot Bostwick Davis, John Cabot Chair, Museum of Fine Arts, compares Darwin's evolutionary theory to the style of life drawing taught in Boston and New York by William Rimmer (1816-1879). [February 24, 2005] Accessed May, 2015.


(above: Henry Inman, Pes-Ke-Le-Cha-Co, 1832-33, Oil on canvas, 30 ? 25 in. (76.2 ? 63.5 cm), The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of Gerald and Kathleen Peters, in celebration of the Museum's 150th Anniversary, 2018)



Alabama Portraits Prior to 1870, By National Society of the Colonial Dames of America Alabama. Historical Activities Committee. 1969. 417 pages


(above:  John Singer Sargent, Portrait of Madame X (Madame Pierre Gautreau), 1883, oil on canvas, 92.5 ? 43.2 inches, Metropolitan Museum of Art. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons*)


(above: Charles Willson Peale, Self-portrait, c. 1791. National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.)


Go to Figurative and Portrait Art: 18-19th Century, 19-20th Century, 20-21st Century

Return to Topics in American Representational Art


See our Museums Explained to learn about the "inner workings" of art museums and the functions of staff members. In the exhibitions section find out how to get the most out of a museum visit. See definitions for a glossary of museum-related words used in articles.

To help you plan visits to institutions exhibiting American art when traveling see Sources of Articles Indexed by State within the United States.

Unless otherwise noted, all text and image materials relating to the above institutional source were provided by that source. Before reproducing or transmitting text or images please read Resource Library's user agreement.

Our catalogues provide many more useful resources.

American Representational Art has links to dozens of topics.

Distinguished Artists is a national registry of historic artists.

About Resource Library


Resource Library is a free online publication of nonprofit Traditional Fine Arts Organization (TFAO). Since 1997, Resource Library and its predecessor Resource Library Magazine have cumulatively published online 1,300+ articles and essays written by hundreds of identified authors, thousands of other texts not attributable to named authors, plus 24,000+ images, all providing educational and informational content related to American representational art. Texts and related images are provided almost exclusively by nonprofit art museum, gallery and art center sources.

All published materials provide educational and informational content to students, scholars, teachers and others. Most published materials relate to exhibitions. Materials may include whole exhibition gallery guides, brochures or catalogues or texts from them, perviously published magazine or journal articles, wall panels and object labels, audio tour scripts, play scripts, interviews, blogs, checklists and news releases, plus related images.

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