Outside the Box – John Neagle

It’s been great fun while in the midst of a project involving all antebellum portrait artists in the Ohio River Valley to spend time with the work of intriguing but sometimes slighted artists. John Neagle (1796-1865) is one.  Beyond the well-known Patrick Lyon at his Forge  (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Massachusetts) and Henry Clay, we found in the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts Neagle’s 1836 portrait, The Studious Artist (please click to open image in separate frame) of fellow artist Thomas Birch (1779-1851), replete with a marine scene on an easel. 

The seascape is unframed. The artist–subject sits with ease within a frame, but John Neagle’s composition frees Birch from the enclosure’s restrictions -from conventional restraints. Is this trompe l’oeil indicative of young America’s sense of personal freedom?

John Neagle, Hon John Jordan Crittenden, 1843, Private Collection

John Neagle, Hon John Jordan Crittenden, 1843
Private Collection


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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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