Portrait of Margaret Whaley Hurst by James Earl
Portrait of Margaret Whaley Hurst by James Earl Portrait of Margaret Whaley Hurst by James Earl Portrait of Margaret Whaley Hurst by James Earl
Portrait of Margaret Whaley Hurst by James Earl

Portrait of Margaret Whaley Hurst by James Earl

  • This exceptional early American portrait was composed by the American painter James Earl
  • Earl was celebrated in his day due to his ability to capture a sense of life in his portraits
  • The brother of Ralph Earl, he was among the most popular painters in the Revolutionary era
  • This portrait is exemplary of his early output in both its character and its detail
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Item No. 30-8858
$138,500
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James Earl
1761-1796 | American

Portrait of Margaret Whaley Hurst and her Daughter, Frances

Oil on canvas

This exceptional early American portrait by the American painter James Earl offers a stunning display of texture, character and detail. The younger brother of the great Ralph Earl, James Earl was among America's most popular painters in the Revolutionary era, though his promising career was sadly cut short by his early death from yellow fever. Portrait of Margaret Whaley Hurst and her Daughter, Frances is exemplary of his early output, highlighting the remarkable talent of this American master.

Earl was highly celebrated in his day thanks to his remarkable ability to capture a sense of life in his portraiture. In Portrait of Margaret Whaley Hurst and her Daughter, Frances, his figures are slightly idealized, though each boasts an engaging facial expression that makes the composition exceptionally compelling. The charming child directs her gaze towards her mother, grasping in her hand a sprig of flowers, a symbol of her youthful innocence. The figures are carefully linked in the composition by the mother's embrace, in a pyramidal structure that is slightly off center to reveal the landscape setting in the distance.

Earl was particularly successful at works such as this that depicted several figures in a single canvas, a challenge that had confounded many American painters, including his older brother. He was also widely admired for his ability to capture the smallest details of his subjects' costumes, a skill that is evident in the present portrait. He masterfully recreates the textures, patterns and lines of his subjects' dresses in a way that is both natural and conveys their luxury. Overall, it is a superb example of his output.

Born in Massachusetts in 1761, it is believed that James Earl was taught to paint by his famed older brother, Ralph Earl. Like other artists of his generation, he painted largely in the British style, and eventually moved to London around 1787 at the encouragement of his brother. While there, he successfully exhibited at the London Royal Academy and earned important clientele in the circles of Americans who had expatriated due to their Loyalist ties. He eventually moved back to the United States, settling in South Carolina in 1794, where he died shortly thereafter of yellow fever in 1796.

Circa 1782

Canvas: 23 7/8" high x 19 3/4" wide
Frame: 28 1/8" high x 24" wide
specifications
Period: 1700-1815
Origin:America
Subject:Portrait
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