Dickinson, Anson - portrait of a young man

This miniature is unsigned, but has been attributed to Anson Dickinson (1779-1852). Although he travelled a lot in pursuit of commissions, Dickinson is most commonly linked to Litchfield, CT where he was born 19 Apr 1779, the son of Oliver Dickinson and Ann Landon.

He commenced painting miniatures around 1803 and moved to New York in 1804. Over the next fifty years he painted in Albany, New York City, Charleston, Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, New Haven, Litchfield, Buffalo, and parts of Canada.

In the 1850 census, he had returned to Litchfield and lived there with his wife Sarah Brown Dickinson who he had married on 30 Jun 1812 in New York. Although he is now thought of as one of the better miniature painters of the early 19C, he did not acquire a great deal of wealth. In 1850 his neighbours included a shoemaker, a cabinetmaker, a carpenter, a labourer, and a blacksmith.

The reason for the attribution is the similarity of pose and style to the later portraits painted by Dickinson, a number of which can be seen illustrated in the biography of Dickinson written by Mona Leithiser Dearborn and published in 1983.

Also shown here as an aid to dating, is an example of a boy's hairstyle from 1852 which is included as plate 95w in Richard Corson's book of hairstyles.

There are very few American miniature painters who are as well documented as Dickinson, both through the biography and via the list he kept of his clients over many years. This list records clients even as late as 1851, when Dickinson was aged 72, which was just a year before he died 9 Mar 1852.

During his lifetime, Dickinson painted over 1500 miniatures. This sounds a lot, but taken over a fifty year working life, it equates to around thirty portraits per year.

In this instance, the pose and the sky shading, with a little of extra shading to convey land at the very bottom are characteristic of his later work, for example the miniature of Senator Truman Smith of Connecticut which was painted in 1847, fig 92 in Dearborn. There was a family relationship here, as when Truman Smith married for a second time, his wife was the adopted daughter of Anson and Sarah Dickinson, Mary Ann Walker.

Judging by the hairstyle, this portrait dates to close to 1850. It is hard to pick out from the image, but the clothes are also very well painted.

The sitter is unknown, but from his apparent young age, could even be the Master David Welch painted on August 15, 1849. 1274


sdockingoe said...

I have 2 Anson Dickinson miniatures from my great, great grandmother and am interested in learning more about their value and how to preserve these special works of art.

Radii Publishing said...

Hello to the blog writer --

Have you a reference copy of Dickinson's account book, leading you to determine your hypotheses on the sitters? If so, could you tell me what other portraits were done around the time he did the Anne Cary Cooper Clarke in 1815, which may perhaps have shared with her one of those various "C" names? Thanks!

Don Shelton said...

Yes, I do have a copy of the list, which is included in a book by Mona Dearborn, see I regret I cannot readily see the name you mention, but there is a reference to "Mr Clark" and a few below to "Mrs Clark Nancy 12". However as the book is inexpensive you may better able to pick out any relevant names. Good luck!