Reuben Moulthrop


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Painter and wax modeler. Remembered for portrait paintings, he was born in East Haven, worked in Connecticut all his life, and died in his native town. His training, if any, remains unknown, and his work displays unevenness in execution and conception. At their best, his portraits offer convincing images, often attentive to his sitters' psychology. Although none of his wax figures is known today, modeling may have been his main occupation. Like Patience Wright, he put together traveling exhibitions of wax figures from history and contemporary life. In developing his career as a painter, he probably benefited from Winthrop Chandler's example. In addition, he presumably observed paintings by more thoroughly trained artists who worked in Connecticut, most notably Ralph Earl, who may have been the source of Moulthrop's knowledge of English prototypes. Moulthrop's earliest known portraits date from the late 1780s. By 1790 he was capable of joining pattern, realistic detail, and appealing likeness into such effective images as the paired portraits of Job Perit and Sarah Stanford Perit (both Metropolitan Museum). Although Moulthrop's works often betray his lack of training in foreshortening and anatomy, these portraits effectively combine decorative embellishment, nuanced color, and evocation of character. A portrait of the Reverend Thomas Robbins (Connecticut Historical Society, Hartford, 1801) exemplifies a more detailed and more carefully modeled style, still linear but closer to standard academic practice. Although the decade separating the works might be taken to indicate artistic development, over time his work seems to have fluctuated widely, if current attributions are correct.

Subjects: Art.

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