Joseph Blackburn (painter)
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Joseph Blackburn Painter
Abigail Chesebrough (Mrs. Alexander Grant), oil on canvas of 1754, in the Art Institute of Chicago

Joseph Blackburn, also known as Jonathan Blackburn, (died 1787[1]) was an English portrait painter who worked mainly in Bermuda and in colonial America. His notable works include portraits of Hugh Jones (circa 1777) and Colonel Theodore Atkinson (circa 1760).

Life and career

He seems to have been the son of a painter, and to have had a studio in Boston in 1750-1765; among his patrons were many important early American families, including the Apthorps, Amorys, Bulfinches, Lowells, Ewings, Saltonstalls, Winthrops, Winslows and Otises of Boston. Blackburn spent time in Bermuda (1752-1753), Newport (1754), Boston (1755-1758), and Portsmouth (1758-1762). In late 1763 he returned to London and painted portraits in southwestern England, Wales, and Dublin between 1768 and 1777.[2] Approximately one hundred fifty of Blackburn's portraits survive.[2] He excelled at painting textiles (i.e., representing the shimmer of silks, the texture of laces, and the folds of fabrics).[2]

Some of his portraits are in the possession of the public library of Lexington, Massachusetts, and of the Massachusetts Historical Society, but most of them are privately owned and are scattered over the country, the majority being in Boston. One portrait, of Elizabeth Browne Rogers completed in 1761, is part of the permanent American art collection at Reynolda House Museum of American Art located in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

This painting of Isaac Winslow and family, by Joseph Blackburn, is one of the first group portraits in America. Subjects: Isaac Winslow (1707-17770; his wife, Lucy Waldo (1724-1768; m. 1747); elder daughter, Lucy Winslow (1749-1770); child in mother's lap, Hannah Winslow (1755-1819). The painting is in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

John Singleton Copley was Blackburn's pupil, and it is said that he finally left his studio in Boston, through jealousy of Copley's superior success. His pictures were long attributed to Copley.[3][4]

"Now, thanks to evidence found within records held in our collections, we are able to confirm that Joseph Blackburn lived and died in the city of Worcester. He and his family lived in Broad Street in the parish of St. Nicholas. The exact date they moved there is unclear, but he certainly is a resident in 1768. They also leased properties around St. Martins Gate in the city, including The White Horse pub. Joseph inherited the lease for the properties after his father, Joseph Blackburn, gentleman, of Kinfare, (now Kinver), Staffordshire, and possibly his aunt, Henrietta Blackburn of Worcester died in 1759.

"The 1759 will of Henrietta mentions Joseph's wife Mary and their two daughters, Henrietta and Elizabeth. His daughters both married local men: Henrietta to William Hill and Elizabeth to George Squire, but both women appear to have died without children. ..."

Dates of birth and death

There is a degree of confusion about the dates of birth and death of Blackburn. The most common suggestion for year of death is 1778 (see for instance the Encyclopædia Britannica and the American Artists Bluebook[1]) whereas Microsoft Encarta suggests 1774.[5] 1730 is usually posited as the year of birth but it is at best an estimate.

Some sources still give 1700-1765 as Blackburn's years. These most likely derive from the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica, published prior to Lawrence Park's review, "Joseph Blackburn - Portrait Painter", printed in the Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society in 1922, which established many of the known works of Blackburn.[6]

In 2015 Worcestershire Archives announced that they had located details of Blackburn's burial in Worcester in 1787.[1]


Selected artworks

Year Title Image Dimensions Collection Comments
1760 Portrait of Colonel Theodore Atkinson, oil on canvas Colonel Theodore Atkinson 1760 Joseph Blackburn.jpg view 50 × 40 ​ in. (127.0 × 102.2 cm.) [also reported as 47 ​ × 39 ​ in. (120.7 × 99.7 cm.)] Worcester Art Museum, Worcester, Massachusetts Subject: lived 1697-1779; husband of Hannah Wentworth (1700-1769); colonial chief justice of New Hampshire Superior Court. IAP 80970127 and IAP 23570023
1760 Benning Wentworth, oil on canvas Governor Benning Wentworth.jpg H-93.5 W-58 inches New Hampshire Historical Society, Concord, New Hampshire Subject: lived 1696-1770, governor of New Hampshire, Bennington, Vermont is named after him.
1760 Portrait of Mrs. Theodore Atkinson, oil on canvas Mrs Theodore Atkinson (Hannah Wentworth) 1760 by Joseph Blackburn.jpg view 49 ​ × 39 ​ in. (124.8 × 99.4 cm.) Worcester Art Museum, Worcester, Massachusetts (listed in collection of Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, Ohio) Subject: Hannah Wentworth (1700-1769); sister of first royal governor of New Hampshire; wife of Colonel Theodore Atkinson (colonial chief justice of New Hampshire Superior Court). IAP 41000005
1761 Thomas Wentworth, oil on canvas Portrait of Thomas Wentworth by Joseph Blackburn, San Diego Museum of Art.JPG San Diego Museum of Art, San Diego, California Subject: Thomas Wentworth (1740-1768)
1761 Portrait of Elizabeth Browne Rogers, oil on canvas Mrs Robert Rogers (Elizabeth Browne) 1761 by Joseph Blackburn.jpg view 50 × 40 in. (127.0 × 101.6 cm.) Reynolda House Museum of American Art, Winston-Salem, North Carolina Subject: Elizabeth Browne (1741-1813); youngest daughter of Rev. Arthur Browne (1699-1773; Anglican rector of socially prominent Queen's Chapel in Portsmouth, New Hampshire); wife of Robert Rogers (1731-1795; well-known French and Indian War hero of Rogers' Rangers fame; m. 1761); later wife of John Roche (sea captain, fur-trader).[7]IAP 80960021 and IAP 40010032
1762 Portrait of Ann Saltonstall, oil Ann Saltonstall 1762 by Joseph Blackburn.jpg IAP 71930550
1762 Portrait of Anne Saltonstall, oil on canvas Anne Saltonstall 1762 by Joseph Blackburn.jpg 30 ​ × 24 ​ in. (127.6 × 102.6 cm.) San Antonio Museum of Art, San Antonio, Texas IAP 67930001
1762 Portrait of Samuel Cutts (1762-1763), oil on canvas Samuel Cutts 1762 by Joseph Blackburn.jpg view 50 ​ × 40 ​ in. (127.6 × 102.6 cm.) Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City Subject: lived 1726-1801. IAP 71560037
1762 Portrait of Mrs. Samuel Cutts (1762-1763), oil on canvas Mrs Samuel Cutts 1762-63 by Joseph Blackburn.jpg view 50 ​ × 40 ​ in. (127.6 × 102.9 cm.) Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City Subject: lived 1735-1812. IAP 71560038
1764 Portrait of Hugh Jones, last known dated portrait by this artist[2] Hugh Jones 1777 by Joseph Blackburn.jpg 50 ​ × 40 ​ in. (128.4 × 102.2 cm.) Worcester Art Museum, Worcester, Massachusetts IAP 23570266


  1. ^ a b "Explore Your Archive: Finding the elusive Joseph Blackburn". Explore the Past. Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service. Archived from the original on 21 November 2015. Retrieved 2015.
  2. ^ a b c d "Early American Artists, Worcester Art Museum". Worcester Art Museum. Retrieved .
  3. ^ Chisholm 1911.
  4. ^ "Explore Your Archive: Finding the elusive Joseph Blackburn. Burials [p]148". Archived from the original on 2015-11-21. Retrieved . 1787 July 11 Joseph Blackburn Source: register of St. Nicholas, 1787 (reference 852 Worcester St. Nicholas BA3790/1b)
  5. ^ "Blackburn, Joseph - MSN Encarta". Archived from the original on 2009-11-01.
  6. ^ Park, Lawrence "Joseph Blackburn -- Portrait Painter" Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society 32 (2): 270-329. 1922
  7. ^ "Cambridge Historical Society, Winwood Serjeant Letters". Archived from the original on December 14, 2013. Retrieved 2012.

External links

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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