Elizabeth (Davenport) Jameson
ARTIST: William Joseph Williams was born in New York City in 1759, and was a nephew of the painter John Mare (1739-1802/3) who worked in New York, New England, and North Carolina. Williams was trained in New York—perhaps by Mare—and his earliest known works are dated 1783 from that city. Although it is known that he worked in oil, all of his surviving works are pastel on paper.
Williams pursued a life-long career as an itinerant painter, living and working in Edenton, North Carolina (1785), Virginia (1793), Philadelphia (1796), Georgetown, District of Columbia (1798), Charleston, South Carolina (1801-1804), New Bern, North Carolina (1804-1807), and New York City (1807-1817).
In Edenton in 1785 he lived in the household of his uncle, John Mare, where he drew portraits of, among others, the Reverend Charles Pettigrew and his wife Mary Blount Pettigrew (MESDA acc. 3332, 3333). In Virginia in 1793-94 he spent time in Culpeper County, where he drew portraits of Colonel John Jameson, his wife Elizabeth (Davenport) Jameson, and her father Birkett Davenport (MESDA acc. 2961.1-3)
He concluded his life as an itinerant artist in New Bern, North Carolina, where he worked and taught at the New Bern Academy. In 1821 he converted to Roman Catholicism with his family and added the middle name Joseph. He died in New Bern in 1822.
RELATED WORKS: MESDA owns five pastels by William Joseph Williams: portraits of the Reverend Charles Pettigrew and his wife Mary Blount Pettigrew (MESDA acc. 3332, 3333) done in Edenton, North Carolina, and portraits of Colonel John Jameson, his wife Elizabeth (Davenport) Jameson, and her father Birkett Davenport (MESDA acc. 2961.1-3) done in Culpeper County, Virginia.
MESDA also has two additional pastel portraits by Williams: portraits of the Reverend Charles Pettigrew and his wife Mary Blount Pettigrew (MESDA acc. 3332, 3333) done in Edenton, North Carolina, in 1785.
COMPARISON: Compared with the portraits of the Pettigrews, this pastel shows a less sophisticated handling of the chalks. Notice the lack of background coloring, giving no sense of depth to the face lines. Eyes are well-drawn, but the body is not well defined. Shadows are shallow and indicate light from the upper left.
DESCRIPTION: Portrait, pastel on paper, of a woman with dark brown hair and eyes. She has rosy cheeks, and she wears a whitish dress with shading done in blue. The dress fits squarely across her breasts. A column is in back of the subject over her right shoulder. The background is otherwise whitish and yellow. This portrait is in the shape of a rectangle. This work is very primitive in appearance. The background is flat which causes the pastel to seem to lack depth.