NMAA Director's Choice
painting: Interior With Portraits Interior With Portraits by Thomas LeClear

Virtual Reality: 19th Century-Style

detail of painting Interior with Portraits by Thomas LeClear records the arrival of a new technological form of "virtual reality" into the painter's traditional territory. For three or four centuries, you hired a painter to capture your loved one's features for posterity. But then, after daguerreotypes were introduced in 1839, suddenly you had a choice. You could have a colorful, often life-sized painted likeness that looked more or less like your relative, or you could have a tiny, monochrome, but startlingly REAL photograph.

This picture is unsigned and undated; what we know about it comes from family history. Those stories say it was painted by Thomas LeClear sometime around 1865. Supposedly LeClear was commissioned to make the picture by an elder brother of these two children in the picture. Simple enough, so far. But it gets more complicated.

Pictured: Thomas LeClear, Interior with Portraits, about 1865, oil, 25 7/8 x 40 1/2 in., Museum purchase made possible by the Pauline Edwards Bequest.

Part 1
Interior With Portraits

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