Sat, Oct 6, 2018 10:00AM EDT
Patrick Henry Davenport (American, Kentucky, 1803-1890). Oil on poplar panel, housed in a gilt frame. A portrait of a man, inscribed on verso Painted by / P Henry Davenport / Harrodsburg 1828; 25.75 x 19.25 (sight), 30.75 x 24.25 in. (frame).
Davenport was born at the Indian Queen Tavern in Danville, Kentucky, which was run by his parents, Richard and Elizabeth Tadlock Davenport. There are reports that he began to paint portraits at the age of fifteen. From 1820 to 1840 he labored as a classic itinerant artist, moving about central Kentucky and leaving behind works in Madison, Garrard, Boyle, Jefferson, and Nelson Counties, as well as in Cincinnati, rural Indiana and Illinois. Like other itinerants he drew upon extended family connections for commissions, being particularly popular with the Clay/Burnam/Rodes/Estill clan.
While self-taught, he was keenly observant, as demonstrated by the highly fluid and strongly raised brushwork in his earliest dated works. Portraits from that period repeat signature formulas: the subjects are set high on the planar field, richly colored, and painted with strongly modeled features and highly detailed clothing. They are cast with an alert sidelong gaze which has the effect of investing them with great presence and astute awareness.
This portrait of a gentleman, signed and dated 1828 on the verso of the panel, is an outstanding example of his skill. The figure is well placed, the facial modeling and contouring is clear and consistent. Facial blush and waistcoat color are painted in subtle contrast to the white stock and dark jacket, relieving this work of that sharply stark quality seen in other efforts. The bravura brushwork suggests at least some knowledge of Matthew Harris Jouett’s appropriation of the Gilbert Stuart formula. Previous efforts to identify this subject have been unsuccessful. Identifiable sitters in other works dated 1828 include Mrs. Eliza Rodes, of Madison County, offering a possible lead to that family.
Estill Curtis Pennington, Lessons in Likeness: the portrait painter in Kentucky and the Ohio River Valley, 1800-1920, University Press of Kentucky, 2010.
Charles Pittenger, Patrick Henry Davenport: Kentucky Portrait Maker, Kentucky Historical Society, 1982.
Edna Talbott Whitley, Kentucky Ante-Bellum Portraiture, National Society of the Colonial Dames of America in the Commonwealth of Kentucky, 1955.
This catalog entry was written by Estill Curtis Pennington, of Paris, Kentucky. Pennington is the author of Lessons in Likeness: the portrait painter in Kentucky and the Ohio River Valley, 1800-1920, and is currently compiling a catalog raisonné of the works of Matthew Harris Jouett.
Provenance: Ex Collection Lewis Edwin Van Arsdale, Perryville, KY