Benjamin West

Artist

Washington Allston (American 1779–1843)

Date

1814, 1837

Medium

oil on canvas

Dimensions

30 9/16 x 25 5/16 in. (77.6 x 64.3 cm)

Description
Washington Allston began this portrait of his teacher and mentor Benjamin West in England in 1814. He brought the unfinished painting with him when he returned to America, settling in Boston, in 1818. In 1837, a group of Bostonians asked Allston to finish the painting so that they could present it to the Boston Athenæum. Allston added the background, chair, and drapery. Finally completed, the painting made its debut at the Athenæum gallery that same year.
Credit Line

Gift of several subscribers, 1837

Object Number

UR40

Landscape

Artist

Washington Allston (American 1779–1843)

Date

about 1798

Medium

Oil on linen

Dimensions

11 1/2 x 13 1/16 in. (29.2 x 33.2 cm)

Description
Landscape, probably composed; mass of foliage at left, two small trees at right edge; at left, horse-drawn wagon carrying two men moving to the viewer’s left, third man on horseback moving to the viewer’s right; body of water in distance at right; mountain in distance just right of center.
Inscription

On verso (with image of Joseph Willard): W. ALLSTON DESIGNED / AND PAINTED DECEMBER 1798.

Credit Line

Bequest of William H. Sumner, 1862

Object Number

UR39a

Joseph Willard

Artist

Washington Allston (American 1779–1843)

Date

1798

Medium

Oil on linen

Dimensions

6 5/8 x 9 1/4 in. (16.8 x 23.5 cm) [image]

Inscription

Inscribed: W. ALLSTON DESIGNED / AND PAINTED DECEMBR 1798.

Credit Line

Bequest of William H. Sumner, 1862

Object Number

UR39b

The Casket Scene from “The Merchant of Venice” (Opening of the Casket)

Artist

Washington Allston (American 1779–1843)

Date

about 1807

Medium

Oil on canvas

Dimensions

19 13/16 x 24 in. (50.4 x 60.9 cm)

Description

Illustrates Act III, Scene II from Shakespeare’s “Merchant of Venice.” An interior scene, classicizing architecture, table at left, large urn on floor at right, views to building and landscape through two large arched openings in background; Nine figures, left to right: young male enters from left with casket (small box), male figure (Bassanio) in tunic with feather cap rests hand on table, in profile facing viewer’s right; male behind and next to him, frontal position; standing female making surprised gesture; behind and to her left, male figure glancing back over shoulder; foregrounded seated female figure (Portia) facing to viewer’s left; three figures in background at right engaged in conversation with one another.

Credit Line

Bequest of John E. Allston, nephew of the artist, 1877

Object Number

UR36

A Young Troubadour

Artist

Washington Allston (American 1779–1843)

Date

1832

Medium

Oil on artist board

Dimensions

Other: 45.1 × 37.5 cm (17 3/4 × 14 3/4 in.)

Description

Until the Boston Athenæum acquired this important painting by America’s first great romantic artist, its location had been uncertain since the nineteenth-century. It made its public debut in 1835, when it was included in the Athenæum’s annual exhibition of that year, and in 1839 was part of a large exhibition of Allston’s works at Chester Harding’s Gallery in Boston. It has not been publicly shown since 1891 and has never been reproduced. In fact, its exact composition and appearance remained a matter of scholarly speculation based on several presumably related drawings in the collection of the Harvard Art Museums and a poem that Allston wrote and published on the occasion of the painting’s public debut that reads in part: “Ah, now he touched the magic cord / That waked his soul through all her springs; / His true guitar itself now sings, / As if alive its happy strings, / Mingling its life with every word.”

A Young Troubadour was purchased from Allston in the late 1830s by John B. Bryant Jr. of Boston and descended in the Bryant and Paine families until it was acquired by the Athenæum. It retains its original frame and joins four other works by Allston that have been in the Athenæum’s collection since the nineteenth century.

Credit Line

Athenæum purchase, Stanton Loring Fund for Art Acquisition, 2014

Object Number

UR351

The Student

Artist

Washington Allston (American 1779–1843)

Date

about 1815

Medium

Oil on canvas

Dimensions

35 7/16 x 32 7/8 in. (90 x 83.5 cm)

Description
Washington Allston’s fame was based mostly on his great historical and religious works, but he also produced fine portraits, dreamy landscapes, and allegorical figure studies, all painted in the Romantic style that he helped establish in America. He rarely painted children or even young adults, making his choice of the subject of The Student unusual for him. However, the contemplative attitude of the young man, who temporarily abandons his book to stare dreamily into space, is typical of Allston’s work—as is the sad and irreversible darkening of the paint itself, a result of Allston’s all too typical experimentation with unstable materials.
Inscription

Inscribed lower left: W. ALLSTON

Credit Line

Athenæum purchase, 1855

Object Number

UR150