Robert W. Weir and Gulian C. Verplanck

Portrait of Robert Walter Weir, ca. 1885, by his son Julian Alden Weir (Los Angeles County Museum of Art)

Julian Alden Weir, Robert Walter Weir, ca. 1885
Oil on Canvas 24 x 20 inches
Los Angeles County Museum of Art M.72.104.1

Fine Art Investigations researches more than portraits.  One in-depth research project involved the artistry of Robert Walter Weir (1803-1889), who taught drawing at West Point for 42 years. Drawing was then a necessary skill for military officers, not only for creating maps or preserving exploratory discoveries in the age before cameras, but because a trained eye could make better field decisions.  Influential in Weir’s appointment to the military academy, was his friend Gulian Crommelin Verplanck (1786-1870), a descendant of New York’s early Dutch settlers, a history teacher at the National Academy of Design, a politician, and author.

 John Wesley Jarvis, Gulian C. Verplanck, ca. 1811

John Wesley Jarvis, Gulian C. Verplanck, ca. 1811
Oil on Panel, 28.5 x 33 inches
Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000.161

Both men were members of the Sketch Club, a friendly group of writers and artists that included William Cullen Bryant (1794-1878), Thomas Cole (1801-1848), Asher Brown Durand (1796-1886), Henry Inman (1801-1846) , and Samuel F. B. Morse (1791-1872). The goal of the club could be said to inspire one another, most famously through Durand’s painting, Kindred Spirits, 1849, depicting Cole and Bryant in the natural beauty of Kaaterskill Clove in the Catskills. But 15 years earlier, Weir and Verplanck inspired one another with a painting and a play.

On October 11, 1834, in the New-York Mirror, Verplanck wrote, “My friend Weir was at work upon a very pleasing landscape…It occurred to me that the picture would gain much additional interest by the addition of some historical figures, or a story connected with the scene.”

Gulian C. Verplank's "Bourbon's Last March" 1835 and Robert Walter Weir painting

Excerpt from Gulian C. Verplanck’s “Bourbon’s Last March” from 1835 Gift Book

Weir added historical figures to his landscape study of light and shadow. Its lengthy title, The Duke of Bourbon’s Halt at La Riccia on His March to the Assau Rome May 3d, 1527  fit the play Verplanck published in the New-York Mirror, and which was later included in a Gift Book.

Robert Walker Weir, The Duke of Bourbon's Halt at La Riccia on His March to the Assau Rome May 3d, 1527, 1834

Robert Walker Weir, The Duke of Bourbon’s Halt at La Riccia on His March to the Assau Rome May 3d, 1527, 1834
Oil on Wood, 35 x 47 inches
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, M.88.2.jpg

1834 Bourbon's Last March by Gulian C. Verplank New York Mirror

New-York Mirror, Saturday, October 11, 1834 with Verplanck’s play based on Weir’s painting


Frontispiece of "The Token"

The Token, 1835 Gift Book that included G. C. Verplanck’s play, “The Duke of Bourbon” based on the painting by R. W. Weir

Three years after the initial collaborative effort, Verplanck was influential in Weir’s commission to create one of four historic paintings for the rotunda of the nation’s capitol. On Christmas Day, 1837, Weir’s fifth child was born and later christened Gulian Verplank Weir. The painting that grew from the mutual inspiration of the artist and the politician was Weir’s most famous work, Embarkation of the Pilgrims, 1843.

Weir Embarkation of the Pilgrims

Robert Walter Weir, Embarkation of the Pilgrims, 1843
Oil on Canvas, 12 x 18 feet
United States Capitol Rotunda.jpg

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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