Erastus Corning, Jr. (1827-1897)

Henry Inman (1801-1846)
Date: 1833
Medium: Oil on canvas
Dimensions: 56 1/4 H x 44 1/4 W
Credit: Gift of E. Corning Rawle and Francis W. Rawle, Jr., in honor of Norman S. Rice
Accession Number: 1978.48
Comments: Erastus Corning, Jr. was born into the most august family in the history of Albany. The town of Corning, NY, was named for his father, a banker, railroad developer, and iron merchant. The son, shown here around age six, grew up to excel in business, philanthropy, and horticulture. He founded the St. Agnes School and the Children's Hospital and established the Corning Foundation for Christian Work in Albany. He was president of the Albany Iron Works, two banks, and the Albany Cemetery Association and was a director of the New York Central and Hudson River Railroad. By the time this was painted, the artist had emerged as the most celebrated New York portraitist of his day. Inman's subjects eventually included six New York governors and mayors, and many members of notable New York families. Here, the young Erastus, Jr. is shown in a romantic, outdoor setting. The thick-trunked tree against which he is seated implies a stable anchor for the young man as well as the protection its leaves offer. By contrast, the stormy sky in the background suggests life's future tribulations. The child displays a small bird's nest he has discovered; it reflects his inquiring mind, love of nature, and compassion and gentleness.