Samuel Lovett Waldo


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Painter. A portrait specialist, he also executed occasional landscapes and imaginative subjects. During most of his career, he collaborated on portraits with William Jewett (1792–1874). A native of Windham, Connecticut, Waldo grew up on a farm and as a teenager received his first training in nearby Hartford from self-taught minister-turned-portrait painter Joseph Steward (1753–1822), who also operated a museum of art and natural history. Subsequently, Waldo worked professionally for a few years in Hartford, Litchfield (about twenty-five miles west), and Charleston, South Carolina, before sailing to London in 1806. There he met John Singleton Copley, worked with Benjamin West, and studied at the Royal Academy. Upon his return in January 1809, he settled permanently in New York. His self-portrait of a few years later (Metropolitan Museum, c. 1815) demonstrates technical mastery of a fluent, painterly approach and an imaginative capacity to realize vivid characterization charged with romantic fervor. Not long after Waldo established his New York studio, Jewett began work there as an apprentice and then assistant. Born in East Haddam, Connecticut, and like his mentor a farm boy, Jewett had previously painted carriages in a New London coach maker's shop. Although he never equaled Waldo's painterly facility, the two participated in a prolific and lucrative partnership from 1818 until 1854, when Jewett retired to a farm in Bergen Hill, New Jersey. He died in nearby Jersey City. Jewett's independent works are few, although they include some genre and still life paintings as well as portraits. He and Waldo worked together so seamlessly that it is fruitless to attempt to distinguish individual contributions to their joint commissions. Much of their studio output became somewhat formulaic, characterized by simple half-length poses, highly finished facial modeling, and strong contrasts of light and dark. However, the partners' reputation for individual likenesses rendered with directness, animation, and dignity attracted a large and fashionable clientele.

Subjects: Art.

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