James Frothingham (1786-1864)

James Frothingham (1786-1864)

Portraitist James Frothingham was one of Gilbert Stuart's prized students. Stuart himself remarked that, "except myself, there is no man in the United States can paint a better head."  He was born in Charlestown, Massachusetts, and began his painting career by decorating carriages with his father. He started to paint portraits after meeting Fabius Whiting, who taught him the fundamentals and later introduced him to Stuart. Stuart became a sort of mentor to Frothingham, which is evident in the similar style of the younger artist’s work: the general composition, detailed background, direct eye contact and strong presence of the sitter’s personality. 

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Frothingham started out in Salem and Boston, but moved to New York City in 1826, and settled in Brooklyn after 1844. He completed commissioned portraits as well as copies of Stuart’s work, including George Washington, one of which hangs in the Brooklyn Museum. He was elected a full National Academician, and exhibited his work there and at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, the Apollo Association and the Boston Athenaeum. In addition to prominent private collections, Frothingham’s work is in the collections of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the Brooklyn Museum, the New York Historical Society and the Metropolitan Museum.

References: Caldwell and Roque, American Paintings in the Metropolitan Museum, 1994; Edited Appleton’s Encyclopedia, Virtualology, 2001.

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