Possibly Thomas Fearn (Formerly Known as Gentleman Farmer)
Origin: America, Alabama (probably)
Other (Unframed): 26 5/8 x 21 1/2in. (67.6 x 54.6cm)
Framed: 30 x 25 3/4 x 1 3/8in.
Gift of Abby Aldrich Rockefeller
Acc. No. 1934.100.3
Oil portrait. Half length view of man against dark background. Head and shoulders facing slightly right of sitter, while his eyes look back to his left. He has blue eyes. There are shadows on face, large nose, dimple on chin, long curly sideburns below his ears, curly hair brushed upwards from forehead. He wears a black double-breasted coat with wide lapels, a white shirt and neckcloth tied in an elaborate bow. His coat is buttoned and his shoulders seem slooping.
Label:The subject of this portrait was a mystery for many years. Found by an art dealer in Huntsville, Alabama, in 1933, it was assumed to portray one of the wealthy farmers living in the Tennessee River Valley. Forty years later, a woman recognized the likeness as one of her Huntsville ancestor, one “Dr. Fearn.”
Doctor Thomas Fearn served as a surgeon under Andrew Jackson during the Creek War, and is credited as being the first to treat malaria with quinine. In the 1830s, he left the practice of medicine for other pursuits, including development of Huntsville’s municipal water works. Fearn’s grandson operated a large farm in the Huntsville area and at his death in 1932, left two portraits to his wife. Whether one of these was this portrait of his grandfather has yet to be determined, but a second likeness of the doctor done later in life (see below) bears an uncanny resemblance.
Stylistically, this portrait is similar to several from Ithaca, New York. With Huntsville’s close proximity to the Tennessee River, it is possible the artist, like many of his contemporaries, traveled through the American South by way of water transportation.
Provenance:Found in Huntsville, Alabama and purchased by Mrs. Rockefeller from Holger Cahill.