Self-portrait by the artist dated from 1728-1739
|Born||24 March 1688|
|Died||2 April 1751 (aged 63)|
1713-1716, he studied under Godfrey Kneller at the Great Queen Street Academy, then returned to Edinburgh, seeking work as portraitist. Smibert travelled to Italy from 1719 to 1722 to copy old masters and then settled in London where he worked as a portrait painter from 1722-1728.
Among his London portraits is one of Bishop Berkeley who, in 1728, enticed Smibert to accompanied him to America, with the intention of becoming professor of fine arts in the college which Berkeley was planning to found in Bermuda. The college, however, was never established, and Smibert settled in Boston, where he married in 1730. He lived at the corner of Brattle Street and Queen-Street. He belonged to the Scots Charitable Society of Boston.
In 1728 he began painting "Dean George Berkeley and His Family," also called "The Bermuda group", now in the Yale University Art Gallery, Yale University, a group of eight figures; it is maintained that the person farthest to the left is actually the artist himself. He painted portraits of Jonathan Edwards and Judge Edmund Quincy (in the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston), Mrs Smibert, Peter Faneuil and Governor John Endecott (in the Massachusetts Historical Society), John Lovell (Memorial Hall, Harvard University), and probably one of Sir William Pepperrell; and examples of his works are owned by Harvard and Yale Universities, by Bowdoin College, by the Massachusetts Historical Society, and by the New England Historical and Genealogical Society.
In 1734, Smibert opened a shop where he sold paint, other artist's supplies, and prints. In his studio above the shop, he displayed casts and copies of Old Masters that he had painted in Europe. This collection, which Richard Saunders has termed "America's first art gallery", provided much of the early artistic education for Charles Willson Peale, Gilbert Stuart, and John Trumbull.
Between 1740 and 1742, he served as architect for the original Faneuil Hall, which he designed in the style of an English country market. The hall burned down in 1761 but was restored, and then in 1806 greatly expanded and modified by Charles Bulfinch.
Benjamin Morland, oil on canvas, 1724. Yale Center for British Art
Elizabeth Davenport (Mrs. William Dudley, 1729, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
Portrait of Major General Paul Mascarene, 1729 (LACMA)
Reverend Joseph Sewall, c. 1735, Yale University Art Gallery.
- John Smibert, Oxford Art Online
- Richard H. Saunders, John Smibert: Colonial America's first portrait painter, Yale University Press, 1995.
- Cust, Lionel Henry (1897). "Smibert, John". In Lee, Sidney. Dictionary of National Biography. 52. London: Smith, Elder & Co.
- Weekly Rehearsal, Oct. 21, 1734; May 26, 1735
- David Kruh. Always something doing: Boston's infamous Scollay Square, rev. ed. Boston: Northeastern Univ. Press, 1999; p.34.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to John Smibert.|
- A.T. Perkins. Notes on portraits by Blackburn and Smibert. Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society, Vol. 17, May 1879.
- Richard H. Saunders, John Smibert: colonial America's first portrait painter. Yale University Press, 1995.