Erastus Dow Palmer (1817-1904)
Charles Loring Elliott (1812-1868)
Oil on canvas
26 1/2 x 21 1/2 W
Signed and dated lower right: C. L. Elliott/ Jan/1864; inscribed on back of canvas: E. D. Palmer/painted by C. L. Elliott at Albany/1864-65
Gift of Walter Launt Palmer in memory of his mother, Mary Jane Seamans Palmer
In the mid-nineteenth century, Charles Loring Elliott was considered by many of his contemporaries America's leading portrait painter. By the 1860s, he had received prestigious commissions to paint full-length portraits of leading citizens of the day, including Erastus Corning and Matthew Vassar. Although Palmer certainly had opportunities to pose for Elliott's portrait, this painting closely resembles a photograph of the sculptor, suggesting the possibility that this work was based on the photo. Unlike some who worried that the new art of photography would put painting out of business, Elliott embraced the medium. He learned from photography the expressive potential of dramatic lighting, and accommodated his portrait style to the challenge posed by photography.