Thomas Sully


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(b Horncastle, Lincolnshire, 19 June 1783; d Philadelphia, 5 Nov. 1872).

The pre-eminent American portrait painter of his period, active mainly in Philadelphia. He was born in England, but moved to America as a child. Subsequently he made two visits to England—in 1809–10, when he received advice from West, and in 1837–8, to paint Queen Victoria for the Society of the Sons of St George of Philadelphia (a preliminary version is in the Wallace Coll., London). His style, distinguished by fluid, glossy brushwork and romantic warmth and dash, reveals his great admiration for Lawrence. In his later work, however, he tended towards a genteel sentimentality. Sully was highly successful and extremely productive. He is said to have painted some 2,000 portraits (he also made miniatures), but his best-known work is probably one of his (also very numerous) history paintings—Washington Crossing the Delaware (1819, MFA, Boston).

Subjects: Art.

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