Interior with Portraits

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Interior with Portraits
Two children pose for a photograph in an artist's studio.
Artist Thomas Le Clear
Year 1865 (1865)
Medium Oil on canvas
Condition On display
Location Smithsonian Museum of American Art, Washington, DC

Interior with Portraits is an 1865 genre scene painted by American artist Thomas Le Clear (1818-1882), commissioned by Franklin Sidway (1834-1920).


The painting features two children, James and Parnell Sidway, posing for a photograph in an artist's studio. The painting was commissioned by the subjects' older brother, Franklin Sidway.[1] Parnell died of illness as an adolescent; James, a volunteer firefighter, died in a hotel fire at the age of 26, shortly before the painting was commissioned.[2]

Both children were painted posthumously from family daguerreotypes.[1] Some painters of the time regarded photography with suspicion, and refused to use photographs as references for portraits.[2] The painting is filled with references to this tension. The children are surrounded by painted portraits, and the photographer's back is to the viewer with his face obscured. The girl appears to be supporting the boy and holding him still, as might have been necessary when posing a child for an early photograph due to the long exposure time.[3] A dog is depicted just entering the studio, another acknowledgement of early photography's limitation to still subjects.[2]

Smithsonian Museum of American Art[edit]

The painting is currently owned by the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the purchase was made possible by a bequest of Pauline Edwards in 1993.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Mike Vogel (July 13, 1997). "WNY painting joins elite class". The Buffallo News. 
  2. ^ a b c Elizabeth Broun. "Director's Choice: "Interior with Portraits"". Retrieved 10 August 2012. 
  3. ^ Pastan, Amy (2000). Young America: Treasures from the Smithsonian American Art Museum. New York, NY: Watson-Guptill Publications. p. 68. 
  4. ^ "Interior with Portraits by Thomas Le Clear". Smithsonian American Art Museum. Retrieved 24 February 2016.