DescriptionTHOMAS JEFFERSON WRIGHT (1798-1846)
J. Lyle Smith, 1834
Oil on canvas
29 1/2in. x 21 1/2in.
Unsigned, but documented in multiple books and by exhibition
At the beginning of the nineteenth century when many well established artists like Charles Wilson Peale, Thomas Sully, and Gilbert Stuart, were painting wigged and waist-coated subjects, many of the younger artists were looking west. The west held adventure, as well as less competition.
In 1836, with the Texas War For Independence over, immigrants began to pour in from the east. The first professional artist to work in Texas was either Thomas Jefferson Wright or John James Audubon (Audubon April 24 - May 18, 1837; some sources place Wright in Texas in the spring, others in the fall of 1837). Wright stayed in Texas for twelve years.
Wright placed the following advertisements in the Houston Telegraph and Texas Register, "Jefferson Wright, Portrait Painter, tenders his professional services to the Ladies and Gentlemen of Houston. His gallery of National Portraits will be open to visitors every day at 4." This gallery of National Portraits was the first art exhibition in Texas. Wright befriended General Sam Houston and painted several portraits of the Republic's first president, as well as Juan Nepomuceno Segin, and Erastus (Deaf) Smith. It is likely these, and possibly other military heroes of the Texas Revolution, were painted by Wright and on display in his gallery. As time passed, Wright became well known and was considered the leading portrait artist in Texas.
This painting of J. Lyle Smith, age six, was done in Kentucky, the year before Wright immigrated to Texas. He was a cousin of the artist, and like his uncle the artist, immigrated to Texas as a young man (1857) after visiting an uncle in Houston. Smith realized there was a lack of quality livestock in Texas and purchased several head of Shorthorn cattle, Kentucky stallions and mares, and mules from Missouri, bringing them to Huntsville in 1857. Smith also ran a gristmill and gin on his farm. He was a mason, an alderman, and the county treasurer. In this painting he is a boy of age six, dressed in Lord Fauntleroy-style -- dark coat, large white collar, and red vest -- his dog beside him, in a painting of simplicity and charm.
Amon Carter Museum, Painting in Texas - The Nineteenth Century Exhibition, October 5, 1967 - November 26, 1967
Painting in Texas: The Nineteenth Century, by Pauline Pinckney, University of Texas Press (pictured)
Art Across America The South and the Midwest, by William H. Gerdts (pictured)
Estimate: $8,000 - $12,000.
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