DescriptionJOHN MCLURE HAMILTON (American, 1853-1936)
Portrait of Dr. John Madison Taylor, circa 1905
Oil on canvas
18 x 24 inches (45.7 x 61.0 cm)
Signed lower right: Hamilton
THE JEAN AND GRAHAM DEVOE WILLIFORD CHARITABLE TRUST
J.M. Hamilton, Men I Have Painted, London, 1921, p. 185.
Born in Philadelphia, John Hamilton was known for portraits, figure paintings, and illustrations. He lived abroad, mostly in London, for fifty-eight years, although he maintained a Philadelphia address. He became official painter to England's Prime Minister William Gladstone and also painted many other English dignitaries. Hamilton studied at the Pennsylvania Academy with Christian Schussele and Thomas Eakins and then went to Europe where he studied in Paris with Gerome at the École des Beaux Arts and at the Royal Academy in Belgium.
The sitter of this handsome blond-toned Edwardian portrait, John Madison Taylor, was a dignitary from Hamilton's hometown, and a longtime friend of the artist. Dr. Taylor invented the first reflex hammer, as physicians know it today, in 1888 while working as the personal assistant to Silas Weir Mitchell at the Philadelphia Orthopedic Hospital and Infirmary for Nervous Disease. Taylor's design for his so-called "tomahawk" featured the triangular rubber head that is frequently on contemporary instruments. The reflex hammer's importance rests in its ability to test deep tendon reflexes, an integral part of the physical examination for detecting abnormalities in the central or peripheral nervous system.
In the book he published about the "great men" portraits he painted over the course of his career, Hamilton discusses this portrait of his childhood friend at some length. "When the portrait was painted, Dr. Taylor had changed from the appearance of the Greek athlete [at the age of twenty] to the more usual type of the man of science. There are still traces of the classical lineaments, which we all admired in the youth, to be seen in the fine profile; and although the hair is gone, and already the effects of reading and studying begin to appear, the old love of sport and of athletic exercise still lingers in a frame that retains all the vigor of youth. The Maine woods and the silent lakes of Canada are the happy hunting-grounds of the idle moments of a man who lives in the open and breathes deeply of the health-laden air of mountain and forest."
This painting's delicate, almost ethereal handling is strongly reminiscent of the work of Thomas Dewing, whose pastels and paintings Graham Williford tremendously admired. The Williford Trust retains a rich cache of works by Dewing in its permanent holdings as one of the primary figures Williford collected in depth.
Unlined canvas; discolored varnish layer; possible pinpoints of surface residue in upper right quadrant; there does not appear to be inpainting under UV exam. Framed Dimensions 23 X 29 Inches
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