John Greenwood in America, 1745-1752

John Greenwood in America, 1745-1752

John Greenwood in America, 1745-1752

John Greenwood in America, 1745-1752

Excerpt

At the middle of the eighteenth century John Greenwood painted portraits of New Englanders and helped decorate our cultural background more vigorously than we have hitherto realized. For a span of seven years his painting won him friends and respect in the nearby towns of Boston, Salem and Portsmouth. He is therefore closely identified with the region in which the Addison Gallery is situated and, as the painter of the signed portrait of Rev. Samuel Phillips (Pastor of the South Parish at Andover from 1710 to 1771, father and grandfather of the founders of Phillips Academy) he becomes the subject of local curiosity.

Greenwood's character carries him beyond the boundaries of this particular interest, however. "His fame was not confined to his own town but extended all over America", as Mr. Burroughs quotes in his introductory remarks. In his forgotten fame we now discover something of the personality of this creative individual and something, thereby, of the kind of culture which existed among the people by whom he was admired. Greenwood knew his own world; we do not. We can attempt to recreate it in terms of the ladies and gentlemen who were part of it and we can also revive its spirit by learning of what the arts then consisted and how they were regarded. Quite apart from the question as to who the sitters were, a searching examination of the portraits themselves discloses pictorial characteristics which retrieve the painter from anonymity and endow his work with added personality and life.

For the first time in history a particular group of Greenwood's portraits were brought together at the Addison Gallery in September, 1942 (they are identified in the Check List, pages 62 to 79). Probably the painter himself never had the satisfaction of surveying them collectively. But if this privilege was denied him, he could at least go about and, regarding them individually, know which were by his hand, remember something of the circumstances under which he painted them and enjoy the colorful friendships he may have made while meeting and delineating his sitters.

His mid-eighteenth century patrons no doubt valued these portraits for the people they represented rather than for any aesthetic quality they possessed. In wills of the period pictures are listed as items of furniture, usually without great price put upon them. Consequently, we have relatively little information about the art of this time and must glean what we can by comparison, logic, and intuition.

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.