Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Mr. Charles Sullivan's Studio

The Marietta Gazette, July 25, 1835

It is, perhaps, not generally known that some beautiful productions of the pencil, by a native artist, of no common genius, are to be seen, at present, in an upper room of the new court house. Whoever has an eye and a heart for the unsurpassed beauties of the Ohio scenery, may spend an hour, with peculiar pleasure, in the study of Sullivan’s splendid pictures. His studio at present exhibits some exquisite landscapes, in a finished state; where strength and clearness of color is united with fine drawing and accurate study of nature.

I have spoken of Mr. S. as a native artist, it may be added that he is almost wholly self taught. His principal studio has been La belle riviere, where the ever varying enchantments of the earth and the heavens, beneath skies burning in golden tints, or frowning with the thunder cloud, were his books and his models. The landscape painter, more than any other, realizes Mr. West’s maxim, that “light and shadow never stand still,” and the principal charm of Sullivan’s canvass is its sky – the touchstone in landscape painting. He has most happily verified the oft repeated assertion, that “the poet and the painter are one.” He is the poet and painter of nature.

One of the subjects in our own lovely Marietta. The individual householder, may, perhaps, feel dissatisfied with this picture, because he does not find in it, as large as life, every stick and stone upon his own premises. But to the eye which, from a distant point of observation, looks upon the town as a single feature upon the face of the landscape – a striking one, indeed, amid all the attributes of loveliness which it possesses – will admire the judgment and skill which have harmonized and subordinated it to the other objects. The coloring of this picture has been thought too vivid, or, as it is technically termed, too warm. I do not think so. Let it be remembered that the foliage is that of autumn. May I attempt to describe it? I would do it thus: One night of frost, one breath from the cold northwest, and the morrow’s sun looks out upon colors bright as his own beams, and more variegated than the tints of his many colored bow. It is as if the earth were spanned by one great Iris, throwing its beauties over mountain and valley and stream. If the sunset skies of Italy are flushed with a more gorgeous radiance, they look not, as ours do, on an earth which gives back a picture of magnificent coloring, that even the glories of the firmament do not outshine: it is as if the very air were painted. The colors below so mingle and harmonize with the colors above, that there seems a very blending of earth and sky. Such are the sky and the foliage which Mr. S. has copied with so much truth and spirit in his view of Marietta.

His studio is not without a more general attraction – some fine portraits. To the many, it is the portrait of myself, my wife, my children, or my friends, that interests more than any delineation of natural scenery, or composition of historical event. This is not peculiar to any place or country: it is so in New York, and London, and Paris, as well as in the villages of the interior. If any desire to secure likenesses that seem “veritable flesh and blood,” living and breathing, as it were, in the very atmosphere surrounding them, Mr. S. can given them. He has executed, by way of first studies in this branch of his art, three portraits, the originals of which being resident here, the fidelity of the likeness can be satisfactorily determined. No one, I am persuaded, who has ever seen our Prosecuting Attorney [Arius Nye] before the Court, illuminating “a point of law,” would hesitate a moment in recognizing the Websterian bumps of his ample forehead, as the original of this portrait.

Mr. S. has made also a splendid painting of the soi-distant “Emperor of the World.” The drawing is very accurate – the likeness is perfect – and he has happily seized the expression of Mr. [Edward Postlethwayt] Page’s really fine face, at the moment when it is glowing with his most “sublime and mysterious ken.” “All things,” says the Padra, “are doubled, one against another,” and in this portrait, we have the “Page of Nature” in a Page of Art. There was never anything half so magnificent as his drapery possessed by “Hindoo Chrishna’s 16000 women,” or “160000 sons.” This portrait alone, would repay the trouble of a visit to Sullivan’s studio.

The other portrait is one of our clergy. Not being familiar with his face, I cannot say how good the likeness may be; but as a composition, it is well drawn and firmly painted.

Mr. S. is engaged, moreover, in giving lessons to a class of young gentlemen. I have seen some of their performances. They are equally creditable to the master and his pupils. There can be no greater mistake than the general impression, that drawing is a mere feminine accomplishment. In truth, there is scarcely a profession or pursuit in life, where it is not highly desirable, and frequently important to possess a competent knowledge of this art. And all the time and money expended in the acquisition of it will be richly remunerated in the taste for the refined and innocent pleasure which it gives at home, in place of the doubtful, and often dangerous, relaxations of youth abroad. Mr. Sullivan has two pupils in oil painting: one of them, well known among us, for his original efforts as an amateur, has seized so readily, and so boldly, the scientific principles of the schools, as to give large promise of eminence in the art. Indeed, his last production places the fact of his possessing a high order of talents, beyond doubt. He has only to persevere in a course so worthily and laudably begun, to be entitled to take rank with the distinguished sons of American genius. Mr. S. speaks highly also of his other pupil’s talent, and casts his horoscope among the stars of the first magnitude.

May I not conclude with the expression of the hope that this “seat of learning,” as it is well entitled to be called, will foster, with becoming liberality, this one of the Fine Arts? It is characteristic of genius and extraordinary merit, to be modest and retiring; the subject of this article is eminently so. This public notice of him will be, I doubt not, as annoying to his diffidence, as I trust it will be gratifying to your numerous readers.


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