Sherlock Adds to Watson’s Conservation Blog

Today, art historian Patricia Moss takes a break from researching the mystery portrait to discuss George Caleb Bingham’s portrait of Thomas Hoyle Mastin.  

Before and after portraits of George Caleb Bingham’s Thomas Hoyle Mastin, 1871, illustrated Watson’s blog post on preservation. Bingham captured the posture of a former Confederate cavalry officer in his likeness of a prosperous banker. Bingham painted not only this portrait but also one of Mastin’s son, John Jerome Mastin, 1871.

George Caleb Bingham, John Jerome Mastin, Jr., 1871 (375)

George Caleb Bingham, John Jerome Mastin,  1871, Oil on Canvas, 39 x 30 inches, Present Location Unknown

George Caleb Bingham, Washington Crossing the Delaware, 1856-1871 (299)

George Caleb Bingham, Washington Crossing the Delaware, 1856-1871, Oil on Canvas, 36 x 57 inches, Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, Virginia, Gift of Walter P. Chrysler, Jr. in honor of Walter P. Chrysler, Sr.

At the auction following the death of Bingham’s widow in 1893, Mastin bought Washington Crossing the Delaware, 1871, the Missouri artist’s copy of the original by his fellow student in Dusseldorf, Germany in the mid-1850s, Emmanuel LeutzeThe three paintings descended to three different family members. One descendant sold the history piece in 1975. It is now in the Chrysler Museum of Art in Norfolk, Virginia. The portrait of Mastin’s son was sold in Chicago sometime after 1986  and is now “lost.”  This portrait of Mastin himself eventually hung in an antique store owned by a descendant’s wife and her business partner.  The partner never liked the portrait.  While the portrait owners were away, she took it down and put it in storeroom, laid it horizontally, and used it as a table. The weight from other objects slowly pulled the canvas from its supports until it sagged and stained and tore the fabric.

When I found the owner, I discovered an engaging and kind gentleman.  He wanted the painting to receive the care it needed. The buyer sent it to a conservator – now retired, but on whom we rely for recommendations –  who restored a storage table to a majestic portrait.  The images merit a second look:



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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1 Response to Sherlock Adds to Watson’s Conservation Blog

  1. Pingback: The Stories Behind the Portraits: Thomas Hoyle Mastin | Fine Art Investigations

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