The Children of the Artist with a Dog

Artist

Cephas Thompson (American 1775–1856)

Date

1811

Medium

Oil on canvas

Dimensions

27 3/8 x 22 1/2 in. (69.5 x 57.2 cm)

Credit Line

Bequest of P. Compton Miller, Jr., 1993

Object Number

UR259

Charles Frederick Thompson Reading a Book

Artist

Cephas Thompson (American 1775–1856)

Date

n.d.

Medium

Oil on canvas

Dimensions

28 x 23 in. (71.1 x 58.4 cm)

Credit Line

Bequest of P. Compton Miller, Jr., 1993

Object Number

UR258

Charles Frederick Thompson, Son of the Artist, in Red

Artist

Cephas Thompson (American 1775–1856)

Date

n.d.

Medium

Oil on panel

Dimensions

20 1/4 x 16 1/4 in. (51.4 x 41.3 cm)

Description

The eighth and last child of the artist by his first wife Olive Leonard (who died in 1819), Charles (1816–1839) would die in his early twenties “in the South.” In this portrait he is a wiggly little boy, at age three or four, and the artist probably gave up on painting more than a rough sketch, as evidenced by the unfinished hands of the toddler. On the lower left is the artist’s cold stamp: C. THOMPSON, an unusual practice, seemingly of Thompson’s own invention.

Credit Line

Bequest of P. Compton Miller, Jr., 1993

Object Number

UR257

Elvira Sturtevant Thompson, Daughter of the Artist (Elvira Thompson with a Book)

Artist

Cephas Thompson (American 1775–1856)

Date

1820

Medium

Oil on canvas

Dimensions

48 x 31 1/2 in. (121.9 x 80 cm)

Description

One of Thompson’s finest works, this remarkably sophisticated portrait of his second daughter Elvira (1804–1855) is redolent of the neo-classical taste that pervaded even provincial America in the early nineteenth century. The Klismos chair, Elvira’s dress, the sparely decorated interior, and the orderly outdoor scene all combine to make the viewer momentarily forget that this is Middleboro in rural Massachusetts. In this fashionable setting, Elvira is beaming with health and youthful anticipation.

Credit Line

Bequest of P. Compton Miller, Jr., 1993

Object Number

UR255

Portrait of a Man

Artist

Cephas Thompson (American 1775–1856)

Date

about 1815–1825

Medium

Oil on panel

Dimensions

29 15/16 x 20 13/16 in. (76.1 x 52.8 cm)

Inscription

Inscribed on lower left: C. THOMPSON

Credit Line

Gift of Mrs. Madeleine Thompson Edmonds, 1978

Object Number

UR157

Self-Portrait

Artist

Cephas Thompson (American 1775–1856)

Date

1830

Medium

Oil on canvas

Dimensions

27 15/16 x 23 in. (71 x 58.4 cm)

Description

Cephas Thompson, from Middleboro, Massachusetts, was one of the first generation of wholly American-bred artists. With no formal training in art, he became a remarkably good painter by dint of his sheer talent and inventiveness. Throughout his productive life he painted six or seven hundred portraits of often admirable and sometimes astonishing quality.

Little is known about his early life in Middleboro, forty miles south of Boston, or how he chose to become a painter. Beginning about 1800 Thompson made annual winter pilgrimages south to Charleston, Baltimore, Richmond, and Norfolk, advertising himself as a portraitist in the days when “art” meant “portraits” to most Americans. About 1820, after twenty-five years of grueling itinerant work, Thompson settled on his family farm in Middleboro. This was no retirement, however, as he continued to take portrait commissions in the area until his death in 1856.

Throughout his life, Thompson painted numerous portraits of his nine children. The Athenæum’s collection includes eighteen portraits by him and several by those of his children who also became artists.

Credit Line

Gift of Mrs. Madeleine Thompson Edmonds, 1978

Object Number

UR154

Lucy Thompson

Artist

Cephas Thompson (American 1775–1856)

Date

about 1830–1835

Medium

Oil on canvas

Dimensions

29 15/16 x 25 5/8 in. (76 x 65.1 cm)

Credit Line

Gift of Mrs. Madeleine Thompson Edmonds, 1978

Object Number

UR155