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Portrait of Captain John Waters

Not on view

Portrait of Captain John Waters

Attributed to: John Watson (Scottish, 1685-1768; active Perth Amboy, NJ, c.1715-1768)

Date: 1730
Medium: Oil on canvas
Overall: 50 1/4 × 40in. (127.6 × 101.6cm)
Credit Line: Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Maitland Tabb Ijams in Loving Memory of 'Lauderdale'
Object number: 91.33
Label Text
This imposing portrait of an early eighteenth century Albanian schoolmaster and militiaman was recently attributed to John Watson. He was one of America's earliest professional portrait painters, having emigrated from Scotland to Perth Amboy, New Jersey around 1714. The light hues in the landscape, the boldly highlighted folds of fabric, carefully rendered lips and nostrils, pink triangles in the corners of the eyes, and the red outline around the fingers are all characteristics of Watson's style.

Waters's pose--with one hand resting on his hip, the other tucked in his waistcoat, and the head turned slightly to the side--is copied from a European etiquette book. The sword hilt may refer to his service in the militia but, more likely, was included in the work as a conventional symbol of a gentleman. Watson's success as a portrait painter depended on his ability to encode his works with the poses and accouterments of fashionable European society. Such portraits would have reinforced the view Watson's clients had of themselves as prosperous members of the burgeoning British empire.

Paul D. Schweizer

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