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Patroon painters


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A group of painters, active in New York and the Hudson River Valley from about 1690 until about 1750. Portraiture accounted for nearly all their artistic output, although religious subjects also survive. Working in related styles, they served a small clientele of merchants and landowners, many descended from the Dutch settlers of the region. (Huge chartered manors granted to so-called patroons in seventeenth-century New Netherlands survived into the era of English colonialism.) Patroon painters drew inspiration from internationally fashionable late Baroque models, which they knew primarily from engravings. Although they often individualized faces, they usually drew on European prints for the elegant costumes, accessories, and backgrounds they and their patrons preferred. Typically, these artists flattened and simplified forms to emphasize line and pattern over modeling and atmosphere. After the mid-eighteenth century, more academically trained artists gradually supplanted them. While some patroon painters remain anonymous or little understood, a small number of clear artistic identities has emerged.

Nehemiah Partridge (1683–1737 or earlier) has been identified as the creator of a group of Hudson Valley paintings previously grouped together as the work of the anonymous Aetatis Suae Painter. (The name derives from the Latin words for “at the age of,” a phrase taken from precedents in European art and often appearing on this artist's paintings, along with the sitter's age.) Born in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, Partridge was almost certainly in Boston by 1699, if not earlier. There as a young man he practiced several decorative arts and began painting portraits. Partridge was in New York in 1718, and it is likely that he worked also in Newport, as well as in Virginia in 1722–23. About fifty of approximately eighty known Partridge works depict members of an elite class living in and around Albany, New York. He was active in that area from 1718 to 1721 and again in 1724 and 1725. Partridge's full-length portrait of wealthy, independent Ariantje Coeymans (later Mrs. David Ver Planck; Albany [New York] Institute of History and Art, c. 1718) epitomizes his characteristic combination of credible facial description with high-style fantasy in costume and setting. His artistic practice seems to have been curtailed after 1725. Evidence suggests that he was still alive in the late 1720s but had died by 1737.

Netherlands-born Pieter Vanderlyn (c. 1687–1778) arrived in New York in 1718, probably by way of Curaçao. From the early 1720s he lived in Kingston, eighty miles north of New York on the Hudson River, or in Albany. He may have been inactive as an artist for many years before he died in Shawangunk, New York, for no work from his hand can be dated even as late as 1750. Vanderlyn has plausibly been credited with the body of work formerly attributed to the Gansevoort Limner (so-called for his portraits of that family), who was active around Albany and Kingston between the 1720s and about 1745. He developed a distinctive style based on flat patterns, rhythmic contours, and appealing color. His portrait of the young Pau de Wandelaer (Albany Institute of History and Art, c. 1730), who stands with a small bird perched on one hand before a Hudson River landscape, exemplifies Vanderlyn's ability to summon a coherent, idyllic vision.

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