Simeon Skillin, Jr.


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Sculptor. The most proficient member of a Boston family enterprise, he enlarged the artisanal woodworking tradition to reflect fine art practice. By the 1790s he often relied on books or prints to devise a provincial response to neoclassicism. Despite his accomplishments, Skillin never achieved the expertise of his exact contemporary William Rush in handling three-dimensional form, nor his cultural sophistication. His father, Simeon Skillin (1716–78), established the workshop that trained Simeon Jr. and his brother John Skillin (1745/46–1800). Although the founder was well known as a carver of ship figureheads, none of his work can be specifically identified today. The great bulk of the sons' work also has perished, and few attributions can be documented. Of those, the allegorical Plenty (Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Massachusetts), known to have come from the workshop in 1793, represents a capability in presenting human form and a familiarity with classical symbolism. In addition to continuing the elder Samuel's marine specialty, the shop produced architectural decorations, including important elements of Charles Bullfinch's designs, as well as furniture embellishments and garden ornaments. A third brother, Samuel Skillin (1742–93) worked also in Philadelphia before the Revolution. Although subsequently in Boston, generally he did not participate in the workshop and seems not to have found much success. His son Simeon Skillin III (1766–1830) later worked in New York.

Subjects: Art.

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