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American Paintings and Sculpture
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Photo credit: Yale University Art Gallery
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Photo credit: Yale University Art Gallery
Artist: William Dunlap, American, 1766–1839
Subject: Elizabeth Woolsey Dunlap, American, 1768–1848

Elizabeth Woolsey Dunlap (1768–1848)

ca. 1805

Watercolor on ivory

2 1/2 × 1 7/8 in. (6.4 × 4.8 cm)
Gift of the Estate of Geraldine Woolsey Carmalt

William Dunlap’s diary recounts a life spent wandering in pursuit of commissions while sleeping in rented rooms away from home. This portrait of his wife, whom he married in 1789, probably remained with him during his journeys along the Eastern Seaboard while his wife and children remained in his hometown of Perth Amboy, New Jersey. Dunlap’s marriage to Elizabeth Woolsey made him brother-in-law to Timothy Dwight, future president of Yale College.

In addition to his career as an itinerant artist, Dunlap is also 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.

Made in United States
Not on view
19th century
Miniatures - Jewelry
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.