Self-Portrait Artist: William Dunlap (American, 1766–1839)

ca. 1805

American Paintings and Sculpture

Not on view

William Dunlap’s diary recounts a life spent wandering in pursuit of commissions and sleeping in rented rooms away from home: having traveled continuously for two months, on February 19, 1806, he observed that it was his fortieth birthday and he was away from home. This self-portrait probably comforted his wife, Elizabeth Woolsey, and their children during his journeys along the eastern seaboard while they remained in Perth Amboy, New Jersey. The miniature might have also held personal meaning for Dunlap, whose turned head suggests a degree of self-consciousness about his appearance. As the result of a childhood accident, he was blind in his right eye. In addition to his career as an itinerant artist, Dunlap is known as the first historian of American art. His History of the Rise and Progress of the Arts of Design in the United States (1834) traces the challenges of portrait-making in early America. Following an unsuccessful period of study in London with Benjamin West, Dunlap returned to New York, where he became involved in the theater, first as a playwright and then as a theater manager. In 1805 his company went bankrupt, and Dunlap returned to painting, pursuing miniatures, full-scale portraits, and large history paintings that he exhibited in major eastern cities.


Watercolor on ivory


2 1/2 × 1 7/8 in. (6.4 × 4.8 cm)

Credit Line

Lelia A. and John Hill Morgan, B.A. 1893, LL.B. 1896, M.A. (Hon.) 1929, Collection

Accession Number



19th century


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 records is ongoing.

  • Barbara Broome Semans, The Lloyd Family of New England and New York, and Related Families of Woolsey, Sylvester and Brinley, and Nelson and Temple 17th to 19th Centuries (United States: Xlibris, 2018), 373, ill
  • Maura Lyons, William Dunlap and the construction of an American art history (Amherst, Mass.: University of Massachusetts Press, 2005), Cover, ill
  • Robin Jaffee Frank, Love and Loss: American Portrait and Mourning Miniatures (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 2000), 171, 172, 173, 324n19, fig. 88
Object copyright
Additional information

Object/Work type

lockets, miniatures (paintings), self-portraits


artists men

Technical metadata and APIs


Open in Mirador

View IIIF manifest

The International Image Interoperability Framework, or IIIF, is an open standard for delivering high-quality, attributed digital objects online at scale. Visit to learn more

Linked Art

API response for this object

Linked Art is a Community working together to create a shared Model based on Linked Open Data to describe Art.