Edward Savage


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Painter, engraver, and museum proprietor. Born west of Boston, in Princeton, he apparently remained self-taught as an artist. His earliest efforts demonstrate admiration for John Singleton Copley's work. Primarily a portrait painter, Savage worked in Boston between 1785 and 1789 and then in New York for two years. Drawn to London, presumably by the presence of Benjamin West as well as the opportunity to learn printmaking skills, he remained abroad for approximately three years. Upon his return to the United States in 1794, he again resided in Boston for about a year before moving to Philadelphia, where he exhibited an early panorama, a 130-foot depiction of London. In addition to resuming his portrait career, he also issued engravings and opened a gallery to display “ancient and modern paintings,” including his own, as well as curiosities and inventions. In Philadelphia he also completed his best-known work, The Washington Family (National Gallery, 1789–96), a monumental group portrait of the first president, his wife, her two grandchildren, and Washington's slave William Lee. A bit stiff, the figures nevertheless suggest gracious informality as they pose within a grand interior overlooking a landscape vista. Issued later as an engraving that remained popular for several decades, the image numbers among the earliest attempts to domesticate the remote and iconic general. In 1801 Savage moved to New York but later returned to Boston, probably in 1810. In both locations, he reopened his gallery, to which he added natural history displays. He died at his farm in Princeton.

Subjects: Art.

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