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General Israel Putnam (1718-1790)

ca. 1845
Origin: America, Massachusetts, Boston (probably)
Unframed: 27 5/8" x 19 5/8" and Framed: 31 7/8" X 23 1/2" X 1 3/4"
Oil on canvas
Museum Purchase
Acc. No. 1978.100.2
A full-length portrait of a man in uniform standing in a landscape. His weight is carried on his proper right leg, his proper left leg being slightly bent at the knee. He points towards the (viewer's) left with his proper right hand, his other hand resting on his hip. He wars a rolled brim hat with gold braid, gold epaulettes on a dark blue, buff-trimmed coat, buff breeches, red sash, red bandolier, white shirt, and tall black boots with white cuffs. His sword hangs on a diagonal behind him, as does his rifle. An encampment is visible in the distant left. At left foreground, a tree trunk fills the side of the composition. A stump is in the right foreground, and two trees in the middle ground behind it.
The 2 1/4-inch gilded cove-molded frame is a period replacement having an applied bead molding along the inner edge and a projecting gadrooned quarter-round outer edge.
Label:A little-known eighteenth-century mezzotint engraving served as the basis of Sturtevant Hamblin's composition, but the painter transformed his source dramatically, partly with the addition of vivid color and partly with the help of commercial art tools and shortcut painting techniques. For instance, in Hamblin's landscape, the configuration of bark on the trees was achieved with a tool akin to a graining comb, a time-saving device used by ornamental or house painters. In effect, Hamblin created an updated, popularized representation of a long revered subject.

Israel Putnam (1718-1790) was known for hair-raising exploits. He fought with Robert's Rangers during the French and Indian War, and in 1775, was appointed a major general in America's Revolutionary forces, particularly distinguishing himself at the Battle of Bunker Hill. Although his subsequent military achievements were less notable, his daring continued to inspire legends. In 1779, a paralyzing stroke forced his retirement from active duty.

Provenance:Robert Fridenberg, New York, NY; in 1930, purchased by Henry Francis duPont, Winterthur, Del.; sold at Sotheby Parke Bernet auction no. 4115, 28 April 1978.
Inscription(s):Signed in paint at lower left "S. J. Hamblin Artist."