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Saturday, June 18, 2016

Washington Allston

Coast Scene On The Mediterranean, 1811, Washington Allston
I've long been of the opinion that all artists are multi-talented. Often their other talents are closely related to painting or their chief artistic interest. The painter Samuel F.B. Morse was, or course, a scientist and inventor, as was Leonardo. Winston Churchill was a brilliant writer and statesman, as well as quite adept at watercolors. Thomas Jefferson was a talented architect as well as an excellent writer, statesman, and a pretty good President. Besides painting and teaching, I've developed a talent for writing and videography as well as strong interest in architecture. Seldom have any of the artists mentioned, or those unmentioned, been equally strong in all areas (Leonardo having been the exception to the rule). On the other hand, Red Skelton painted clowns as well as he portrayed them. Moreover, I've always admired Tony Bennett as much for his paintings as his singing. The colonial American artist, Washington Allston, was a portrait painter and also a published poet.

The self-portrait dates from 1805, the Gilbert Stuart, from 1818.
Allston was born on a rice plantation on the Waccamaw River near Georgetown, South Carolina in the northeastern coastal area of the state. The year was 1779 so, not surprisingly, he was named for George Washington. His father, Captain William Allston, died in 1781, shortly after the Battle of Cowpens. Washington Allston graduated from Harvard College in 1800 and shortly thereafter sailed to England in May 1801 to further his studies as an artist. He was admitted to the Royal Academy in London when the American-born painter, Benjamin West, was its president.

The Taming Of The Shrew, 1808,  Washington Allston
After absorbing what he could from West, Allston spent the next five years traveling about Europe, "museum hopping" from Paris to Rome and points in between. It was during this time that Allston met the writer, Washington Irving, another traveling American bearing the name of our first president. It was also around this time that Allston's appreciation for Shakespeare manifested itself with his The Taming of the Shrew (above), from 1808. Allston also painted scenes from A Midsummer Night's Dream, Henry IV, and the comic figure of Falstaff. After traveling throughout western Europe, Allston eventually settled in London, where he became famous for his portraits, landscapes, and religious works.

Christ Healing the Sick, 1813, Washington Allston
As mentioned earlier, Allston was also a published writer. In 1813, while still living in London, he published The Sylphs of the Seasons, with Other Poems. It was republished in Boston later that year. At the same time, Allston completed his Christ Healing the Sick (above). Several years before, Allston painted Moses and the Serpents (below), his first venture into religious art. In the years that followed, he also depicted scenes involving Jeremiah, Elisha, Elijah, Joseph, and others.

Moses And The Serpent, 1805, Washington Allston
Two years later, in 1815, Allston's wife, Ann (Channing), died leaving him saddened, lonely, and homesick for America. In 1818, Alson returned to the United States, settling in Cambridge, Massachusetts, for the remaining twenty-five years of his life. He died in 1843 at the age of sixty-three. During his years in this country, Allston trained a whole generation of American portrait artists including such names as George Whiting Flagg and Jared Bradley Flagg (his nephews), as well as his friend and Colleague, Samuel F.B. Morse. Allston has sometimes been called the "American Titian" inasmuch as his paintings often resemble the great Venetian Renaissance artist's work in their display of dramatic color and sharp contrasts. His work greatly influenced the development of U.S. landscape painting during the first half of the 19th-century. The west Boston neighborhood of Allston is named after him.

The Poor Author and the Rich Bookseller,
 1811, Washington Allston

The Tippler, Washington Allston


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