Classic, Contemporary American Portrait of Lord Byron

Sometimes I feel I am just wasting my time studying the little known American portrait artists of the 19th century. My vow to restore those artists to their proper place in memory feels like a burden. Then along comes a gratifying artwork like George Gordon, Lord Byron by Arthur Armstrong (1798-1851).

Portrait of Lord Byron

Arthur Armstrong, Portrait of George Gordon, Lord Byron, 1845

In 1845, in his studio was  in Lancaster, Pennsylvania’s  cultural center, Mechanics Institute Hall, Arthur Armstrong transformed a print of a romantic British portrait, painted in 1813 by Richard Westall (1765-1836), into a quintessentially American work.  In the linear tradition of the America’s self-taught artists, Armstrong straightened the dream-like pose into a commanding stance. With the American penchant for plain over fancy, he omitted lace and brooch.  In the American manner, he eschewed complexity to create a clear conceptualization of the poet. Armstrong’s portrait of Lord Byron lacks the graceful elegance of the English painting but it holds a timeless power. Much of Westfall’s other work today appears annoyingly sweet and old-fashioned while Armstrong’s Byron looks modern and contemporary. Such a painting reminds me why some nearly forgotten American portrait artists need to be remembered. I am glad the owner contacted me.  He wishes to sell the simultaneously classic and contemporary American portrait.

 (c) Fine Art Investigations, 2014
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About Patricia Moss

Patricia Moss is an art historian, or art detective if you will, who solves mysteries of 19th century American portraits. She located nearly 70 of Bingham’s lost portraits, a feat acknowledged by the Smithsonian’s Research and Scholar’s Center. From expertise with portraits of George Caleb Bingham (1811-1879), she developed skills that evolved into a comprehensive system based on the scientific method that conforms to the legal and ethical standards of art authentication. Moss served as a guest curator for the Bingham Bicentennial Exhibit, “Steamboats to Steam Engines: George Caleb Bingham’s Missouri: 1819-1879,” (March 10-September 8, 2011) at the Truman Presidential Museum and curated the opening exhibition, “George Caleb Bingham: Witness to History,” (September 2013 –), Jackson County Art Museum, Independence, Missouri. She is also the principal researcher for Fine Art Investigations.
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