Matthew Harris Jouett


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Painter. A portrait and miniature specialist, he occasionally painted landscapes. Born on a farm near Harrodsburg, Kentucky, and a resident of that state all his life, he ranks as the first notable painter of what was then the American West. About 1804 he arrived in Lexington, which remained his home. He graduated from Transylvania College there and subsequently practiced law. Although mostly self-taught as an amateur painter, after returning in 1815 from service in the War of 1812, he decided to become a professional. The following year he traveled to Philadelphia and then to Boston, where he spent about four months in Gilbert Stuart's studio. His earnest record of Stuart's advice remains the most important documentary source about the master's technique and theories. Following his return to Lexington, he often sought commissions during winters in New Orleans and other southern cities along the Mississippi River. Jouett generally practiced a workmanlike approximation of Stuart's approach, but his development suggests also admiration for the work of John Wesley Jarvis, whom he met in New Orleans, and Thomas Sully, with whom he became acquainted on subsequent visits to Philadelphia. In his most appealing likenesses, he normally employed a bust-length format and plain background in order to concentrate on the face. His undated John Grimes (Metropolitan Museum) renders a convincing likeness, while moody shadows add romantic flair. Jouett died of yellow fever at his home near Lexington.

Subjects: Art.

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