Published: April 23, 2002
Cahoon Features Folk Portraits of Husbands and Wives
COTUIT, MASS. – Running from April 23 through June 15, the exhibition “: Folk Portraits of Husbands and Wives” will feature more than two dozen pairs of American portraits painted from the mid-Eighteenth Century to the mid-Nineteenth Century. In those years, the untrained itinerant artist was often the one who preserved a family’s faces for posterity.
An opening reception will be Friday, April 26, 5 to 7 pm. Gloria Lariviere will play the piano. Refreshments will include a small wedding cake. Docent tours of the show will be at 11 am every Friday (except April 26).
George and Martha Washington are the most famous couple on view. They were painted by well-known folk artist William Matthew Prior, who found ready buyers for the many copies of Gilbert Stuart’s Athenaeum portrait of Washington he produced in the 1860s. Some lesser-known subjects also have colorful histories. Captain Peter Storms of Bourne was a blockade runner who played an important role in Venezuela’s fight for independence from Spain. He became friends with General Simon Bolivar and was considered a hero. Captain David Leonard was a commander with Plymouth County Regiment during the Revolution.
Since many itinerant painters did not sign their work, many of the portraits in the “” exhibition are by unknown talents. Visitors can however, also see examples of works by — or attributed to — such notable folk portraitists as Prior, Erastus Salisbury Field, William Thompson Bartoll, William M.S. Doyle, Aaron Dean Fletcher, Cephas Thompson, Frederick Mayhew of Martha’s Vineyard and Giddings Ballou. To varying degrees, their styles were flat and linear and they possessed a strong sense of design. Despite their lack of formal training, they often captured the essence of a personality.
The paintings of husbands and wives in the “” exhibition are all companion portraits, so called because they obviously belong together. Each pair of paintings has virtually the same dimensions and often some element, such as background drapery, that visually links the portraits. Usually, the husband and wife face each other. Occasionally, the wife holds a baby on her lap.
The Cahoon Museum of American Art is at 4676 Falmouth Road (Route 28). Hours are 10 am to 4 pm Tuesdays through Saturdays. For information, 508-428-7581.
5 Church Hill Road / Newtown, CT 06470
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