William Jennys


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Peter Pelham (c. 1697—1751) mezzotint engraver and painter in America


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Painter. A portrait specialist, he is known for crisp, insistently realistic, and psychologically acute likenesses. His forcefully rendered, unidealized clients seem intensely alert as they gaze sharply at the viewer. Most of his works present the sitter at waist length, turned at an angle to the picture plane, and placed against a plain background. Probably born in Boston, Jennys is first documented in New London, Connecticut, in 1793. He worked in several Connecticut towns until 1797, when he went to New York for two or three years. There his style became somewhat more painterly, colorful, and three-dimensional. After 1800 he worked primarily in Massachusetts but also in New Hampshire and Vermont. While residing for some years after 1804 in Newburyport, Massachusetts, he painted some of his finest and most complex works. Subsequently, he turned to various business ventures in New York, the Bahamas, and elsewhere. No paintings are known from the last half century before he died in New York. Several portraits are jointly signed by his father, painter and engraver Richard Jennys (c. 1734–c. 1809). Probably born in Boston, though possibly in England, Richard entered the historical record as an artist about 1766, when he issued a memorial mezzotint portrait of Boston cleric Jonathan Mayhew. Based on his own painted likeness of Mayhew, it extends the technique, format, and late Baroque style of Peter Pelham's earlier prints of clergymen. Documents indicate that he later visited the West Indies and worked in South Carolina and Savannah, Georgia, although he seems to have been relatively inactive as an artist for some years. In 1792 he arrived in New Haven, Connecticut, where he restarted his career. By this time, his manner resembled the simpler approach his son was then forming. After completing several portraits in New Milford, Connecticut, during the mid-1790s, he subsequently traveled throughout New England in search of commissions. After his son moved to Newburyport, Richard joined him there. Both painters at times supplemented their portrait careers with ornamental work and art instruction.

Subjects: Art.

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