James Sharples

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For other people with the same name, see James Sharples (disambiguation).
James Sharples
Born James Sharples
1751 or 1752
Lancashire
Died 1811
New York
Nationality English
Known for Painting, Pastelist
Movement Portrait, Silhouette

James Sharples (1751 or 1752 in Lancashire – 26 February 1811 in New York [1]) was an English portrait painter and pastelist, who moved to the United States in 1794. He first exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1779.

History[edit]

George Washington
Classic profile on Postage Issue of 1895, face of engraving taken from a portrait by James Sharples, 1751.[2]

James was first intended for the Catholic priesthood, but became an artist instead.[3] Sharples headed a family of successful portrait artists, including his third wife Ellen Sharples. He had four children: George by his first wife; Felix Thomas Sharples from his second marriage (c. 1786- after 1823); and James Sharples Jr.(c. 1788-1839) and daughter Rolinda Sharples (1793–1838) with this third wife, Ellen. Felix, James Jr. and Rolinda joined the family enterprise at ages 17, 15, and 13 respectively.[4] Before marrying Ellen Wallace, James had been active in Bristol, Liverpool and Bath, where he taught drawing.[5] Ellen was a lady of French extraction who had relations in America. The family left for the United States in 1796, but, according to Ellen's diaries, their ship fell into the hands of the French, and for seven months the family spent time in Brest, near Cherbourg. Landing in New York, James quickly became popular for his small portraits in pastel and his miniatures.[6] From 1796 to 1801 he worked mainly in Philadelphia and New York, securing portrait commissions. The family traveled throughout New England region as itinerant portrait painters, looking for work and making inexpensive copies from the originals portraits they had made of popular and well-known figures, such as George Washington and James Madison.

The Sharples family built both a reputation for accurate portraits and a modest fortune. As a viable alternative to the larger, formal oil portraits of Gilbert Stuart and Jonathan Trumbull, for example, their small-scale pastels made a major contribution to the growing Federal portrait industry.[7]

After encountering problems with the lease of their house in Bath in 1801, the Sharples returned to England. The war between France and England delayed the family's return to the United States. Felix and James returned in 1806, and their parents and sister Rolinda followed in 1809. After James Sharples's death of heart trouble during an extremely cold winter in 1811, the family returned to England.[8] Only Felix elected to remain behind.

Paintings[edit]

Carlos Martínez de Irujo y Tacón, Pastel attributed to James Sharples, Sr.

James Sharples established his career in America in 1794 by offering to make profiles of local and national politicians. He then used the original portraits to show as samples to new clients or to make copies of the originals. During this time, copies of portraits of famous people were popular, though the competition among artists was intense, and many had to travel in order to find customers.[9] Sharples often used a physiognotrace, a mechanical drawing aid, to record an exact profile, which he kept for his personal collection. He would then copy these originals for resale.[10] He also painted three-quarter bust-size pastel portraits with a delicate, precise touch. His color palette was predominantly black, white, and grey. The skin was rendered in flesh tones and the backgrounds were generally blue. "The mainstay of Sharples's business was making replicas from the life portrait he made of Washington, just as Gilbert Stuart's staple was making replicas in oil of his portrait of the first president."[11] The Sharples charged $15 per profile and $25 for a full-face view.[12]

Sharple's subjects included George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Hester Thrale, Joseph Priestley, James Madison, Dolley Madison, and John Adams. Sharples' family members all took part in duplicating the original portraits, which sometimes made it hard to distinguish the original from the duplicate.

Royal Academy Paintings[edit]

From the listing in a book of The Royal Academy Exhibitors one can see that James Sharples exhibited his works before he moved to America. The following is a partial listing of his paintings.[13]

  • 1779 - Two paintings: A lady; Two gentlemen
  • 1782 - Portrait of a lady of quality; nobleman; crayons (Duke of Northumberland, Walpole)
  • 1783 - Portrait of a lady; a gentleman; a lady; fruit girl in the wind
  • 1785 - A Newcastle lady in the character of Spring; portrait of a young lady; gentleman; lady

Bibliography[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ http://www.answers.com/topic/james-sharples-2
  2. ^ National Portrait Gallery: http://www.npg.si.edu/exh/gw/gwsharp.htm
  3. ^ Bryan's dictionary of painters and engravers http://www.archive.org/stream/bryansdictionary05bryauoft/bryansdictionary05bryauoft_djvu.txt
  4. ^ Metz, Kathryn. "Ellen and Rolinda Sharples: Mother and Daughter Painters", Woman's Art Journal, Vol. 16, No. 1 (Spring - Summer, 1995), p 1.
  5. ^ http://www.microform.co.uk/guides/R97579.pdf The Sharples Family and Legal Papers: 1794 - 1854, Dr. Diane Waggoner
  6. ^ Bryan's dictionary of painters and engravers http://www.archive.org/stream/bryansdictionary05bryauoft/bryansdictionary05bryauoft_djvu.txt
  7. ^ Metz, p. 1
  8. ^ Metz, p 4
  9. ^ Waggoner, pp 6-7
  10. ^ The Met Museum http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/amdr/ho_08.144.htm
  11. ^ Virginia Historical Society http://www.vahistorical.org/gwportrait.htm
  12. ^ Waggoner, pp 6-7
  13. ^ The Royal Academy of the Arts: Exhibitors, pp 92-93 http://www.archive.org/stream/royalacademyofar07grav#page/92/mode/2up

Links to Paintings[edit]

External links[edit]