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Pair of American Portraits by James Sharples

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Directory: Antiques: Decorative Art: Folk Art: Pre 1800: Item # 1117778

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Pair of American Portraits by James Sharples
Artist: James Sharples, American Medium: Pastel Size: Approximately 12” x 9.5” (image size of each) Signed: Unsigned Date: Late 18th century Description: Unsigned pastels on paper measuring approximately 12” x 9.5” of a successful man wearing a black frock coat and his pretty wife wearing a white dress with pink tie. The sitters appear to be identified as the Robbins’ by way of an inscription on each frame. The image is painted in the style of Sharples family and is attributed to James. This pair of portraits represents a superior example of early American folk portraiture. The watercolors come framed in early frames, as found. Condition: The paintings date to the late 18th century and are in good, untouched, condition. There is minor moisture staining to the upper edge of the portrait of the woman. The frames are period and appear to be original to the paintings. Artist Biography: (Courtesy of AskArt.) The Sharples family created the finest pastel art in America after John Singleton Copley and before the renaissance of the medium in the later 19th century. James Sharples, born in Lancashire, England in 1752, was a pupil of George Romney, the English portraitist. He worked in Bath (1781), Bristol (1783 and 1785), Liverpool and London before traveling to America about 1793 with his third wife, the former Ellen Wallace (1769-1849), who had been his pupil, and three children, Felix (circa 1786-1825), James, Jr. (circa 1788-1839) and Rolinda (circa 1793-1838). The family spent four years in Philadelphia and four in New York City. They returned to Bath in 1801, but in 1806, Felix and James, Jr. came back to America. Three years later, the rest of the family followed. When James, the father, died, his wife, his daughter and James, Jr. returned to Bristol, where they finally settled. The Sharpleses were specialists in pastel portraits of cabinet size, smaller than life, but larger than miniature. They were usually on thick gray paper, the wooly texture of which gives a soft, grainy appearance to the very sensitive draftsmanship. The likenesses are sometimes in the common three-quarter view, but many are in profile. The highlight of the Sharpleses' work was the often-replicated likeness of George Washington, done about 1796 or 1797. The various members of the family worked so closely together that it is impossible to distinguish among their hands. Fine examples are usually assigned to James, Sr., but his wife, Ellen Sharples, was equally talented and, though she seems often to have copied her husband's pictures, she undoubtedly created original examples as well. There is a large collection of their work in Bristol, England. James Sharples died in 1811. Provenance: This painting came from a private collection in Santa Clarita, CA.


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