Friday, May 12, 2006

Artist Aaron Houghton Corwine (1802 - 1830)

Aaron Houghton Corwine, Oil on canvas, 26 x 22
Portrait Artist Aaron Houghton Corwine was a well-known and highly skilled artist from Maysville living in the early 19th century. Edward Dwight, the only author of note on the artist to date, praises his ability to "get a perfect likeness and to capture an expression of vitality."

From The Filson Newsmagazine:

Aaron Houghton Corwine was born in Maysville, Kentucky, to Amos Corwine, an early settler of Mason County. Before becoming an artist Aaron was "a ploughboy, for which he never showed much taste," according to the antiquarian historian Lewis Collins. Collins' mythic history of Corwine includes an episode of painting his father's barns and fences with "grotesque figures" which were so "fanciful and striking" that Amos determined to give "him the opportunity to pursue the inclination of his mind."

After a brief period of study with a local portraitist, an unidentified Mr. Turner, Aaron set off for Cincinnati in 1818. Bearing a letter of introduction to Dr. Daniel Drake, an eminent surgeon, his talents soon attracted sufficient sponsors for further study in Philadelphia with the renowned Thomas Sully. Sully found him to be "gentle, full of kind sympathy and delicate taste." Having acquired all the knowledge he needed to establish himself as an artist he returned to Cincinnati in 1820, becoming that city's first resident portraitist.

Corwine’s best known, and best documented, self-portrait has been in the collection of the Mason County Museum in Maysville since the early 20th century. In that work the artist has chosen to depict himself in a highly romantic style, clad in a coat with a fur trimmed collar, high on the planar field, and with a “strange, pensive, and quizzical expression” on his “handsome youthful face,” according to Edward Dwight. Painted in England at a time when the artist was already aware of the tuberculosis that would prematurely end his life, the expression may be a manifestation of his own awareness of impending doom.

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posted at 2:41 PM by Jeremy Parnell