Silhouette Portrait of a Gentleman with Brown Hair and Beard

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Miniature silhouette portrait of a gentleman with brown hair and beard in front of a modeled blue and red background.  Watercolor on paper. Unsigned, attributed to Gillespie of Vermont, 1820-1845. Held in a period molded and gilt frame with a black and gilt eglomise glass matte.

Tell me more: This fine watercolor profile portrait of a gentleman is attributed to the widely traveled and highly skilled artist, James H. Gillespie (1793-after 1849) of England, Canada and America.  The life and work of James H. Gellespie is discussed and illustrated in “Six Choices for the Sitter, James H. Gillespie (1793-after 1849), by Suzanne Rudnick Payne and Michael R. Payne, published by Antiques and Fine Art.  James Gillespie was born in England in 1793 and published a handbill in Bridgnorth, Shropshire, England between 1818 and 1820.  He described himself as a “profile painter and drawing master.”  Gillespie traveled widely throughout Britain, painting portraits in London and Liverpool, as well as Edinburgh, Scotland.   He arrived in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada in the late 1820s and published an advertisement in the Arcadian Recorder in February 1829.     He soon moved on to a new studio in Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada and advertised in 1830 in the New Brunswick Courier stating that “At Halifax (N.S.) he lately Painted upwards of 1,400 Likenesses.”    By 1832 Gillespie was on the move again, stopping for a time in Eastport, Maine and advertised in the Eastern Argus, published in Portland, Maine.  This began a long term itinerancy along the East Coast, which took the artist throughout Maine, Massachusetts, New York, Maryland and Pennsylvania.  By the 1830s, he had developed a distinctive style of high quality details depicting the sitter and a modeled background featuring reds and blues along the edges of the portrait.

The watercolor silhouette portrait of a gentleman described above features this distinctive red and blue background and can be dated to the 1830s.  A similar profile portrait, showing Reverend James H. Johnston of Portland, Maine, is illustrated in “Six Choices for the Sitter” by the Paynes.  Both portraits feature Gillespie’s high quality artistry with sharp details to the facial features and the same distinctive red and blue modeled background.  According to the author’s:  “This was Gillespie’s predominant style during his American itinerancy.”