NMAA Director's Choice


detail from Interior With Portraits The little boy had just died when the picture was requested, but he was not then the small child shown here; rather he was a 26-year-old volunteer fire fighter who had just perished in a hotel fire. His older sister had already died when she was an adolescent, more than fifteen years before the picture was made. Most viewers today think the little boy in the picture looks definitely dead, even stuffed.

One possibility is that the painter, for lack of live models to get likenesses, used a daguerreotype of them as a substitute so he could get the features right. If so, he must have known he was entering a highly charged arena of controversy. Painters everywhere were threatened by the new photography. They vowed never to use photos as aids. Instead, they were celebrating the very special qualities that made paintings so superior. LeClear obviously decided he would engage the issue.

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 2
Interior With Portraits

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