Joseph Badger


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Painter. A Boston portraitist, he received little training as he developed an unassuming but distinctive style. Badger did not sign or date his works, but he is credited with more than 150 documented or attributed works. He was born in Charlestown, now part of Boston, where he relocated permanently around 1733. A housepainter and glazier, he probably continued some artisanal tasks after taking up portraiture about 1740. Like other colonial painters, he drew on prints of English paintings for poses and settings but reduced his models' elegance and grandeur. Badger's manner remained hard and literal; his color, drab and somber; and his drawing, weak, while his compositions generally lack atmospheric unity. Nevertheless, at his best Badger's pictured clients possess a forceful dignity, often enhanced by an apparently forthright realism in facial description and by sensitive attention to detail. Including some of the most agreeable, an unusually large proportion of his surviving works, approximately a third, depict children, such as his three-year-old grandson James Badger (Metropolitan Museum, 1760). Wearing his best finery (he is still in skirts) and holding a pet bird on one hand, he self-consciously poses before one of the painter's characteristically sketchy landscapes. More delicately painted than many of Badger's subjects, he looks proudly and trustingly at his grandfather. Here the artist's unprepossessing style suits the innocence of his subject.

Subjects: Art.

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