Gardiner Greene

Artist

Francis Alexander (American 1800–1880)

Date

about 1828

Medium

Oil on canvas

Dimensions

30 1/16 x 25 in. (76.3 x 63.5 cm)

Description

Trained as both a painter and lithographer, Francis Alexander settled in Boston in the mid-1820s where his talents were encouraged by Gilbert Stuart. After Stuart’s death in 1828, Alexander became one of Boston’s most sought-after portraitists, sharing the city’s steady supply of portrait commissions with Chester Harding. Alexander exhibited at the Athenæum’s first annual exhibition in 1827 and continued with some regularity until his move to Italy in 1853.

Boston merchant Gardiner Greene (1753–1832) made his initial fortune in the Demerara sugar plantations in South America and, after 1800, augmented his wealth through investment and banking in his native city. With his wife, Elizabeth Clarke Copley (daughter of the painter John Singleton Copley), Greene turned a sizable estate he purchased in downtown Boston into the city’s finest mansion and garden.

Credit Line

Athenæum purchase, 1961.

Object Number

UR52

Gardiner Greene

Artist

Francis Alexander (American 1800–1880)

Date

about 1828

Medium

Oil on canvas

Dimensions

Other: 73.7 x 64.8 cm (29 x 25 1/2 in.)

Description
This is the second portrait by Francis Alexander of Boston businessman, merchant, and banker Gardiner Greene (1753–1832) to enter the Athenæum’s collection. Both paintings, one a near replica of the other, remained with Greene’s descendants until they were given to the Athenæum. Alexander was a native of Connecticut, studied in New York City, and, after meeting Gilbert Stuart, moved to Boston around 1825. Following Stuart’s death in 1828, he became one of Boston’s most prolific portrait artists.
Credit Line

Gift of William O. Taylor, 2012

Object Number

UR344

Amasa Hewins

Artist

Francis Alexander (American 1800–1880)

Date

about 1840

Medium

Oil on canvas

Dimensions

25 1/2 x 20 1/2 in. (64.8 x 52.1 cm)

Description

Amasa Hewins (1795–1855) was a portrait, landscape, and genre painter. For most of his life, he lived in Boston, where his work was first shown at the Boston Athenæum in 1830. He spent some time in Italy during the 1830s and again in the 1850s as an active member of the thriving American expatriate communities in Rome and Florence.

In the early twentieth century, the Athenæum acquired Hewins’s European journals, sketchbooks, and other papers. Acknowledging the value of this collection, the Athenæum sponsored the editing and publication of the journals in 1931. This portrait, which was then in a private collection, was reproduced as the frontispiece of that book, making the recent gift of it to the Athenæum by one of the artist’s descendants an appropriate one.

Credit Line

Gift of Martha Coolidge Rugg, 2009

Object Number

UR324

Robert Gould Shaw

Artist

Francis Alexander (American 1800–1880)

Date

19th century

Medium

Oil on canvas

Dimensions

40 x 30 in. (101.6 x 76.2 cm)

Description
Boston merchant Robert Gould Shaw (1776–1853) acquired his wealth in maritime trade, brokerage, and real estate business, taking advantage of Boston’s rapidly shifting mercantile fortune. Shortly before his death in 1853, he urged two of his grandsons to “use [their] example and influence against intemperance and slavery.” Ten years later, one of the grandsons, Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, would die a hero at Fort Wagner as the commander of the 54th Massachusetts Regiment, the first documented African-American regiment formed in a free state.
Credit Line

Gift of Mr. Lloyd McKim Garrison & Mrs. Ellen Shaw Kean, 1995

Object Number

UR281

Almira Penniman Barlow

Artist

Francis Alexander (American 1800–1880)

Date

about 1830

Medium

Oil on panel

Dimensions

29 7/16 x 23 15/16 in. (74.7 x 60.8 cm)

Description
Known as one of Boston’s great antebellum beauties, Almira Cornelia Penniman (1808–1864) married the Reverend David Hatch Barlow, a graduate of Harvard Divinity School and Unitarian minister, in 1830. (This portrait may have been created to mark that occasion.) The marriage did not last, however, and in 1841 Almira took her three sons and moved to the utopian community of Brook Farm, where she apparently served as the inspiration for the character of Zenobia in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Blithedale Romance (1852). One of her sons, Major General Francis Barlow, was later Attorney General of the State of New York and the husband of reformer and civil rights activist Ellen Shaw, sister of Robert Gould Shaw. This painting descended in the sitter’s family with the attribution to Francis Alexander, a leading mid-century Boston portrait painter.
Credit Line

Gift of Ellen Jay (Mrs. Lloyd K.) Garrison, 1983

Object Number

UR191