Wednesday, February 13, 2019

James Sharples, Traveling Portrait Artist

James Sharples was born in England and trained in France. He came to America in 1798 and built a portrait business by traveling from town to town.

"His mediums were crayon and pastel. Seeing that the market for his wares was scattered, he devised a special cart that would comfortably hold his wife, two boys and a girl and their clothes and food and his painting gear. It was drawn by one large sturdy horse." (Source)

"In this menage ambulant he travelled all over the country, going from town to town, and city to city. In each city he would obtain letters of introduction to people in the next city—military, civil or literary worthies. Sharples would present the letter, beg the honour of doing a portrait for his 'collection,' and, if this was granted, he would set to work."

"And he was a good artist. He could manage to make a faithful likeness in about two hours. Having seen himself so faithfully portrayed, the sitter, of course, was easily induced to buy the picture. The charges were $15 for a profile and $20 full face."
Quotes from Hawkers and Walkers in Early America: Strolling Peddlers, Preachers, Lawyers, Doctors, Players, and Others, From the Beginning to the Civil War, 1927.


broker12 said...

I've been avoiding this for years, but I see, at last, that I must buy a horse and cart. :-)

Susan Krzywicki said...

They are very soft-looking but the faces seem so realistic - especially the eyes.

Rich said...

"$15 for a profile and $20 full face":0)

That might have been $17,50 for a three-quarter profile. And perhaps $5 for a rear-view (matter of bargainin;-).

Nice work. It's still being done in the streets today - but not that elaborate.
Pre-photographic times...

Virginia Rinkel said...

His faces are soft and tender looking. I wonder if he had the people sit inside, or if outside, we'd see more light and shadow?
Thanks for posting, and I too need a horse and wagon. My life would be complete then.