American Paintings and Sculpture
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Photo credit: Yale University Art Gallery
PrevNext2 of 2
Photo credit: Yale University Art Gallery
Artist: Anson Dickinson, American, 1779–1852

Gentleman of the Dunlap Family


Watercolor on ivory

2 11/16 × 2 3/8 in. (6.8 × 6 cm)
Lelia A. and John Hill Morgan, B.A. 1893, LL.B. 1896, M.A. (Hon.) 1929, Collection
Born in Milton, Connecticut, Anson Dickinson apprenticed to a silversmith in Litchfield, Connecticut, in 1796, and first advertised as an artist in the local press in 1802. He briefly received instruction from the celebrated miniaturist Edward Greene Malbone, who painted Dickinson’s portrait in 1804. Dickinson’s more than fifteen hundred commissions reveal that he traveled extensively along the East Coast but worked mainly in Connecticut and New York. Dickinson was widely admired by many of his contemporaries, including Malbone, the master of Federal-era miniatures, and Gilbert Stuart, the famous oil portraitist. The artist’s technique, which can be seen in his portrait of a gentleman of the Dunlap family, takes full advantage of the luminosity of the ivory medium. The process of painting watercolor onto a thin sheet of ivory was painstaking. The ivory’s slippery surface, which naturally repels watercolor, necessitated special preparation; it was degreased, bleached, smoothed, then affixed to the backing paper before any color could be applied. To prepare his paint, Dickinson ground dry pigments into a fine powder, then added gum arabic (a soft tree resin used as a binder), water, and sugar candy according to precise formulas to achieve the desired consistency. With patient, meticulous strokes, he applied his pigments using full-bodied brushes (called “pencils”) that had been worked to a sharp point.
Made in New York City, New York, United States
Not on view
19th century

YUAG receipt for minaitures received from Mrs. John Hill Morgan, Oct. 18, 1940, has pencil notation "Hewitt Sale" next to this object.

Note: This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the Yale University Art Gallery’s complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of such records is ongoing.