RUFUS PORTER (1792-1884). Portrait of a Young Man in Profile  

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Probably New England, circa 1830

Watercolor and ink on paper, 4 x 3 1/8 inches, period gilt frame with eglomise glass with rare multi-colored border.

This is a classic example of a Rufus Porter profile portrait, that were referred to by the artist as “Side views painted in full colours.”

Born in Massachusetts in 1792, Rufus Porter spent his youth in Maine, married twice and fathered sixteen children, and died in Connecticut in 1884. In his ninety-two years, Porter lived a multifaceted life. As a young man, he was a fiddler, a shoemaker’s apprentice, and teacher. He also built gristmills, ran a dancing school, and crewed a ship. In 1810, Porter learned to paint houses and signs, and by 1815, he had taken to the road an itinerant painter. He is known today for the vibrant murals, that he painted on the walls of new England dwellings and inns, as well as for small portraits and silhouettes that he created of the residents of towns from Maine to Virginia.  Rufus Porter was truly a “renaissance man,” part scientist, artist, journalist, and inventor. In 1845 he moved to New York City and became a full-time journalist. He edited “New York Mechanic,” “American Mechanic” and founded “Scientific American. He died in New Haven, Connecticut in 1884. An exhibition entitled “Rufus Porter Rediscovered” was mounted by The Hudson River Museum in Yonkers, New York in 1980 and Porter was included in the landmark exhibition “American Folk Painters of Three Centuries” at The Whitney Museum of American Art in 1980.

For additional biographical information on Porter see Jean Lipman and Alice Winchester, Eds., Primitive Painters in America 1750-1950 (New York, 1950), pp. 57-66; Jean Lipman, Rufus Porter, Yankee Pioneer (New York, 1969); Jean Lipman, “Rufus Porter 1779-1884” in American Folk Painters of Three Centuries (New York, 1980), p. 154; Beatrix T. Rumford, American Folk Portraits, Paintings and Drawings from the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Center (Boston, 1981),  pp. 170-171; Time-Life Books, Folk Art, Imaginative Works from American Hands (New York, 1990), p. 32; and Marna Anderson, A Loving Likeness, American Folk Portraits of the Nineteenth Century (Princeton, NJ, 1992), pp. 44-47, and Supplement to A Loving Likeness (Princeton, NJ, 1997), pp. 32-33.

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