Tobias and Louisiana Gibson provide a good illustration of the close connections between Kentucky and Louisiana during the antebellum period.
ARTIST: Matthew Harris Jouett (1788-1827) was the third child of Captain John (Jack) Jouett, Jr., (1754-1822) and Sallie Robards (1756-1814) of Harrodsburg, Kentucky. Jouett showed artistic ability at an early age. It has been speculated that he may have studied painting at Transylvania University, since there are extant paintings of his classmates there. After college, he read law.
In 1812, he married Margaret (Peggy) Henderson Allen (1795-1873). He fought in the War of 1812, serving finally as a captain, and incurring a debt of $6,000 because of a lost payroll for which he took personal responsibility. By 1815 he had achieved a reputation as an artist, earning as much as twenty-five dollars per portrait. The next year he traveled to Boston for instruction with Gilbert Stuart (1755-1828). His paintings reflect the teachings of Stuart who advised Jouett to paint people as they were, not as they wished to be seen. He also adopted some of Stuart’s techniques, especially the use of “standing white” paint. “Standing white” is a technique where turpentine is added to white paint to give strong highlights to white clothing.
Despite his popularity, Jouett was never able to obtain enough work to support his large family. Still, he remained generous towards young artists who came to him for assistance or tutelage. His studio in Lexington became a hub for Bluegrass artists. Though Jouett traveled, including a trip to the studio of Thomas Sully in Philadelphia, he did not pursue an itinerancy. He remained a resident of Lexington, Kentucky, until his death at age 39.
FRAME: Attributed to James McInsosh, Lexington, Kentucky.