John Vanderlyn

Portrait of the Artist, age 25, by Vanderlyn

QUICK FACTS
BORN:
18 October 1775 in Kingston, New York
  DIED:
23 September 1852 in Kingston
Buried at Wiltwyck Cemetery, Kingston, NY

  • The patronage of Aaron Burr provides Vanderlyn with a number of opportunities throughout his career, and despite Burr’s later humiliations, Vanderlyn remains indebted to him throughout his life.
  • In Philadelphia, Vanderlyn helps Gilbert Stuart fill orders for copies of the Athenaeum portrait of George Washington by blocking in the figure (1796).
  • Becomes the first American painter to study in Paris (1796 - 1801) and subsequently wins a medal at the Salon (1808).
  • Vanderlyn imports the French neo-classical style into American art — in sharp contrast to the British Grand Manner of John Trumbull.
LINKS

John Vanderlyn, American painter, was born in 1776 at Kingston, New York. He was the grandson of a Dutch emigré painter and the son of a glazier-painter and dealer in painting supplies.

He was employed by a print-seller in New York and was first instructed in art by Scottish-born painter Archibald Robertson (1765 - 1835), who was later one of the directors of the American Academy of Fine Arts in New York. He made copies of some of Gilbert Stuart’s portraits, including one of Aaron Burr – and it was Burr who arranged to have Stuart take him on as a pupil in Philadelphia.

In 1796 Vanderlyn went to Paris, then in 1805 to Rome, where he painted his picture of Marius amid the Ruins of Carthage, which received a gold medal when it was shown in Paris. This success caused him to remain there for seven years, during which time he prospered greatly. In 1812 he showed a nude, Ariadne Asleep on the Isle of Naxos, which increased his fame.

Vanderlyn returned to America in 1815, but did not meet with success. He worked very slowly, and neither his portraits nor various panorama which he exhibited brought him any considerable financial return.

In 1842, through friendly influences, he was commissioned by Congress to paint The Landing of Columbus for one of the panels in the rotunda of the Capitol at Washington. Going to Paris, he employed a French artist to assist him, who, it is said, did most of the work.

He died in absolute want at Kingston, New York, in 1852.

Vanderlyn was the first American artist to study in France instead of in England. His paintings adapt the French neo-classical style for American audiences. He painted portraits of Presidents, including George Washington (a copy of Stuart’s Lansdowne portrait for the House of Representatives), James Madison, James Monroe, Andrew Jackson and Zachary Taylor; New York statesmen Robert R. Livingston and George Clinton; and South Carolina statesman John C. Calhoun.

ADAPTED FROM:
Encyclopedia Britannica, 1911 ed.

CONNECTED TO:
| Burr, Aaron | Stuart, Gilbert

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Perhaps the most important element in Washington’s military education during the French and Indian War was his development of a strategic sense. The struggle for the Forks of the Ohio had started as a Virginia affair, but it quickly took on an international prominence. Washington became one of the men at the center of the conflict. Although he had a limited understanding of the European politics and diplomacy that helped to fuel the war, he nevertheless sensed the crucial importance of Indian affairs. He also perceived the strategic value of the different regions of North America — such as the Middle Atlantic, the Ohio, and the Hudson Valley — and learned how British ministers thought of conquering or defending a continent. Most of all, he learned how war could become a battleground for the competing ambitions and interests of the various colonies.

Edward G. Lengel
General George Washington: A Military Life (2005)