Artifact Corner: Tuthill Portraits

Hi Everyone, and welcome back to another artifact corner. Today we will be looking at three portraits by the same artist. All of these portraits were painted sometime in 1818, and are of Henry Delord, Betsey Delord, and their daughter Frances Henrietta. All of these paintings were done by the artist Abraham G. D. Tuthill, an early American portrait painter. Let’s learn a bit more about Abraham Tuthill.

Abraham Tuthill was born in 1776 in Oysterponds, NY. Oysterponds has been renamed since the 18th Century, and is today called Orient, NY. It’s the very tip of one of the peninsulas off Long Island. Not much is known about his childhood, except that his family were well connected. It was clear that he showed an aptitude for painting, and that with some instruction, he could become a very good painter. As a young man he came to the attention of Sylvester Dering of Shelter Island who recommended him to a relative, William Broome, of New York. Broome was an artist himself, and a mover and shaker in New York Cities arts scene. He knew that if Abraham was to succeed as an artist he needed formal training in Europe. Broome reached out to some of his wealthier friends, seeking funding to send Abraham to study art abroad. Among the patrons that funded his studies were Alexander Hamilton, Aaron Burr, and George Clinton. I’m sure Hamilton and Burr’s names are familiar to you, but George Clinton was a huge name in late 18th Century America. He fought in the Revolutionary War, was a delegate to the Continental Congress, Governor of NY, and Vice President of the United States. Thanks to these men and others, Tuthill set sail for England in 1800 to study under the American born painter Benjamin West.

West was a very famous British-American painter who caught the attention of King George III. He was appointed historical painter to the court and surveyor of the King’s pictures. He was also instrumental in the creation of the Royal Academy of the Arts in London, and served as its second president. Many history fans will know this work, one of his most famous, depicting the death of General Wolfe. He also painted the death of General Nelson and the Treaty of Paris. If you have not seen his works, we highly recommend checking them out. Abraham’s talents developed under West’s tutelage, but he never attained the level of artistry that West had achieved. Tuthill remained in England until 1808, and upon his return, he began painting all over New York. He traveled out west to Utica, Northern New York, and Vermont. He also worked in New York City, where he had a small studio. Tuthill ended up settling in Montpelier, VT, and that’s where he passed away in 1843. His works are in many museums and historical societies collections around New York.

After these portraits were painted, Henry Delord sent them to France, so that his sister, Julie could see his family. He had not seen his family in France for almost 20 years, and wanted them to know he had done well for himself in upstate New York. Henry had hoped to return to France himself, but passed away before he was able to. His daughter, Frances Henrietta eventually made it to the ancestral home in Nismes France, and was able to send these three portraits back to Plattsburgh. We are so lucky to have these portraits in our collections. The painting of Henry is the only likeness we have of him, and so is invaluable for our museum! The portraits are all in excellent condition, and we are so lucky to have them in our collections. Thanks so much for stopping by!

Music: Acoustic Breeze by Benjamin Tissot,