Justus Englehardt Kühn

(b. 1717)

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(d. 1717).

Painter. Born in Germany and presumably trained there as an artist, he numbered among the earliest painters working in the colonies south of New York. In 1708 he applied for naturalization in Annapolis, Maryland. His surviving works are portraits commissioned by three major landowning Maryland families, although his estate inventory suggests he occasionally undertook other subjects. He died in Anne Arundel County, near Annapolis. Kühn's known works are limited to several conventional, usually three-quarter-figure adults and three or four lavishly conceived representations of doll-like children. Clothed in finery, the youngsters pose in expansive, fictionalized settings that owe more to internationally fashionable late Baroque conventions than to anything that then existed in the colonies. Henry Darnall III as a Child (Maryland Historical Society, Baltimore, c. 1710) includes a second child, Darnall's liveried slave, notable as the first representation in American painting of an African-American subject. As in the portrait of his sister Eleanor Darnall (Maryland Historical Society, Baltimore, c. 1710), who poses in a companion portrait with her dog, the young master idles on a terrace before an elaborate balustrade. In the backgrounds of both paintings, vast formal gardens lead to grandiose palaces. Faces and clothing are meticulously rendered, lending an air of plausibility to these decorative documents of family aspiration.

Subjects: Art.

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