Arthur Armstrong’s family included Revolutionary War Brigadier General John Armstrong, Sr. (1717-1795), Revolutionary War physician, Dr. James Armstrong (1748-1828), and John Armstrong, Jr. (1758-1843), President James Madison’s Secretary of War (1813-1814). Armstrong County, Pennsylvania, is named for the John Armstrong, Sr.
Into this prestigious family, Arthur Armstrong was born in 1798 in Pennsylvania. His leanings were artistic and in 1820, when he was 22, he opened a studio in Marietta, Pennsylvania. On September 25, 1827. He married Harriet Groff Wentz (1808-1896).
He taught younger artists, including John Henry Brown (1818-1891) and worked in the Ohio River Valley in 1839 and 1840. By the time of the death of the region’s more established older artist, Jacob Eichholtz (1776-1842) Armstrong resided in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. In 1849 his studio was in the Mechanics’ Institute in Lancaster.
In times of economic downturn, Armstrong painted signs and constructed and gilded picture frames. But when the economy was good, he painted portraits, landscapes and historical scenes. On the second floor of his Lancaster studio he exhibited Hamlet and Ophelia and a large picture of the Assassination of Caesar. This 1845 portrait of George Gordon, Lord Byron, from a print of a British portrait by Richard Westall, would have been among the artworks on display.
Armstrong died at the age of 53 on June 15, 1851. He was remembered as “a genial, kindly-hearted man.” He is buried in Greenwood Cemetery, Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
The Lancaster Historical Society owns the preponderance of his works. The Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, New York, owns a particularly lovely double portrait Two Sisters with Puppy and Flowers, 1842.
Gerdts, William H., Art Across America: the East and the Mid-Atlantic, (Abbeville Press, 1990), 268
Lancaster County Historical Society, Historical papers and addresses of the Lancaster County Historical Society (Lancaster, Pennsylvania), Friday, September 13, 1912 (184-191)
United States Census Bureau, Seventh Census of the United States, “Household of Arthur Armstrong,” August 12, 1850, Lancaster South East Ward, Lancaster, Pennsylvania; Roll: M432_788; Page: 340A, lines 33-39.
Whitley, Edna Talbot, Kentucky Ante-Bellum Portraiture, illustrated by photos. from the collection of the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America in the Commonwealth of Kentucky (Kentucky: 1956). 620.
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