I love history and art. But I had never heard this amazing story of a slave who became a professional portrait painter in 18th century America. I found the story on OUT OF THE ARCHIVES – a blog exploring the Archives at the Hingham Heritage Museum.
Henry Barnes was a distiller and manufacturer of pearl ash. He and Christian were members of Marlborough’s financial elite and in the early 1770’s owned 3 slaves. Prince was the son of their slave Daphney. I’m not sure when Prince’s artistic talent became known but eventually he was supported by Christian Barnes who seeing his genius had Henry purchase Prince with a view towards improving his genius in painting “.
PORTRAIT OF CHRISTIAN BARNES BY PRINCE DEMAH BARNES
In a letter by Christian she writes:
“Prince is here and I am sitting to him for my picture.”
A month later in November 1769 Prince is purchased by Henry Barnes with the intention to educate and improve his talent.
HENRY BARNES BY PRINCE DEMAH BARNES
In 1770 Christian Barnes wrote:
Prince is “a most surprising instance of the force of natural genius for without the least instruction or improvement he has taken several faces which are thought to be very well done. He has taken a copy of my picture which I think has more resemblance than Coping’s. [sic]. She is referring to the famous 18th century portrait painter John Singleton Copley.
So Prince is the first African-American professional artist in America! For approximately 10 years he had a career as an artist. When the Revolution came the Barnes fled and Prince enlisted in the Massachusetts militia as a free man. He was now called Prince Demah (removing “Barnes “). He died from either smallpox or another disease on March 1778. In his will he left all he had to his mother Daphney.
PORTRAIT OF WILLIAM DUGUID BY PRINCE DEMAH
An amazing artist story. Never judge a person by the color of their skin but by the content of their character!!!
This is very difficult to write about. A fellow artist in the NYC Subway platform surrounded by his artwork. I didn’t notice the whole picture and just quickly dismissed him as a general homeless man. Then I really looked and felt my gut clench because I was staring at the true “starving artist “. I had a moment of fear and didn’t want to see this. It was painful. It could be me!! And let me tell you some months cash flow is not plentiful.
But I was drawn to his art. He was good and had talent. I fearlessly approached him and hoped I could tell him how good his art is. You never know if people are insane or if the art was stolen. What followed was the most engaging conversation with a talented fellow artist on hard times. At one time he was successful in Florida. He had traveled all over the world doing art. Studied at the National Academy of Art. This was a man on hard times showing his work no matter what. He wasn’t complaining about his situation. He wasn’t asking for MONEY. He was a very happy man sketching in the subway engaged in creating.
I am blessed to have met this fellow artist. The train came and we shook hands good bye. I felt D. E. Gayard was a true fearless artist. He blessed me that day. The only gift I can give this artist is to celebrate him on my blog and tell my followers and the internet world of his existence in the world of art.
Please pass this post to everyone you know. Spread the name and art of D. E. Gayard. Don’t let this special artist fall through the cracks of anonymity.
I had to do a separate post on D. THOMAS FINE MINIATURES. An incredible store of doll houses and miniatures. Yes these places do exist. They are in hidden alleys and appear to those who believe in art of doll houses.
My son Dan came upon D. THOMAS Fine Miniatures hidden in a mews of stores. When we walked in it was like being transported to another world. Darren T. Scala is the Artist/Proprietor. He was a delightful person who showed us around. He actually was looking for an artist who could teach a workshop on painting miniatures. He asked if I could do that and when he explained that it would mean sizing down masterpiece art into a 1″ or 2″ scaled version I had to decline. I’m good at small paintings but not traditional masterpieces. If anyone out there can do this give Darren a call.
So my curiousity about this art had me search for what a true miniature is. What is the history of the art. And how a store like this can exist selling such a specialty item. Let’s face it, I never knew that miniature collectors and the artists that create these miniatures were around.
So what is a miniature? According to Wikipedia, a miniature is a small-scale reproduction, or a small version. It includes paintings as well. These paintings are very small and extremely detailed.
And of course there are the beautiful doll houses and the furniture created for them.
Here are some things from D. THOMAS Fine Miniatures.
BUT WAIT. IN THE BACK OF THE STORE WAS AN ARTIST RENDITION OF THE BACK BUILDINGS FROM THE ALFRED HITCHCOCK MOVIE “REAR WINDOW “!! WAIT A MINUTE I THINK I SEE GRACE KELLY IN ONE OF THOSE WINDOWS!
D. THOMAS Fine Miniatures is located at 579 Warburton Avenue Shop #6, Hastings on Hudson, NY 10706
Here’s a great link with more incredible artists creating miniature scenes. The site is Mental Floss.
THIS IS A STORY ABOUT THE ARTIST YASOU KUNIYOSHI AND HOW I BECAME AN ART DETECTIVE.
“At the League my life began to take on a real meaning. . . . I had a great hunger for friends and companionship as a natural reaction to my lonely wanderings. At the League I found the warmth and kindness which I sorely needed.”— Yasou Kuniyoshi
When Yasuo Kuniyoshi began studying in New York City at the Art Students League in 1916 he tried and failed to get into George Bellows’ popular painting class. Instead, he studied with Kenneth Hayes Miller, who proved to be a valuable influence on Kuniyoshi’s artistic trajectory. Soon after assuming the role of teacher himself in 1933, also at the Art Students League, Kuniyoshi’s own classes became difficult to get into. He was immensely popular with his charges. In the classroom, he engaged students with questions about process and subject matter, not just technique, encouraging them to develop a curiosity about how to represent their unique experiences of the world. This method mirrored his own approach to painting.
I was giving private painting class to a wonderful woman who had visual impairment due to a double stroke. She abandoned herself to creativity and the painting expanded her life. We worked for 2 years in her home and her work was so special because of her impairment. It was a joy to watch
What does that have to do with Kuniyoshi?
When I used the bathroom in my client’s home, I kept looking at an interesting framed print there. It was an unusual drawing and I kept thinking this is something important. I looked at the signature one visit and could make it out as Kuniyoshi. I knew Kuniyoshi because he was a former Art Students League instructor in the 1940’s. I had studied his work on on the internet as I became educated in various artists who were not well known. Upon Discovering the signature, I found out my client bought it many years ago in a flea market for next to nothing. I told her what I knew about the artist and said she might have an original print that was valuable. I told her to take it out of the bathroom immediately to prevent any more water damage. Then we searched the Internet and YES it was his print from a series. Now we needed to find out if it was original. My client made an appointment with a Sotheby’s print specialist.
And according to Sotheby’s IT IS AN ORIGINAL!!! The value $8,000. She removed the old frame had it framed and it is over the couch. She had a treasure and it was hiding in the bathroom. I’m grateful that I could see the treasure due to my art knowledge.
Why Kuniyoshi is an artist I admire is because he taught his students to PUT YOURSELF IN THE ART.
WHAT’S IN YOUR BATHROOM?
Here is the print my client owns: