Mary (Clapp) Foust
ARTIST: The “Guilford Limner” is the working name assigned to an unknown watercolor artist, most of whose attributed works were painted in Guilford County, North Carolina in 1826 and 1827. Typical features of the Guilford County likenesses include faces with large, luminous eyes with eyelashes, decorative architectural backgrounds, and sitter names and dates inscribed in block lettering. Later North Carolina portraits, probably painted between 1828 and 1832, are of subjects living in Mecklenburg, Iredell and Rutherford Counties. These differ from the Guilford County portraits in that they do not include decorative interiors or inscribed names, but do include a radiating background behind the figures.
In addition to the North Carolina portraits, nineteen examples of the Limner’s work have been identified with Kentucky histories from Breckenridge, Clark, Bourbon, Franklin, Green, Washington and Lincoln Counties, dated between 1818 and 1825, providing ample evidence that the artist worked in Kentucky before coming to North Carolina. Five South Carolina portraits are known, three of subjects from Union County (Spartanburg), and two from Fairfield County, the latter of which are dated 1832, confirming the Guilford Limner’s working dates from 1818-1832.
RELATED OBJECTS: One of three Foust family portraits by the Guilford Limner, two of which–Jacob and Mary (Clapp) Foust–are at MESDA (5753.1-2). Daniel Foust, Mary’s husband and Jacob’s father, is in a private collection. A reproduction of Daniel’s portrait is at MESDA. MESDA’s sulfur-inlaid chest of drawers (MESDA acc. 5568) was owned by Daniel Foust’s parents George Foust (1756-1836) and his wife Barbara (Kivett) Foust (1761-1837).
DESCRIPTION: Watercolor portrait of Mary (Clapp) Foust. Portrait of a woman facing forward, seated with crossed legs in a fancy painted chair, next to a round turned pedestal painted table on which a black, red and green trimmed vase holds an arrangement of red roses. She is wearing a black dress with a large white collar, black shoes, a white cap with black ribbon, and holds a red book. The background is a brightly painted green wall, black and brown upper molding, dark brown base molding and dark blue marbleized paneling. The floor is brown squares with red flowers at the corners and red circles in the center of each square, suggesting either a carpet or painted floorcloth. Above the figure the name of the sitter is inscribed in block letters painted in black with a red outline, flanked on each end with a floral medallion.