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John Ritto Penniman Portrait

John Ritto Penniman

Also Known as: J. R. Penniman, John Penniman

Born:
Milford, Massachusetts 1782

Died:
Baltimore, Maryland 1841

Active in:

  • Boston, Massachusetts
  • West Brookfield, Massachusetts

Photo Caption:
Private Collection.

Luce Artist Biography

John Ritto Penniman apprenticed as an ornamental painter in Roxbury, Massachusetts, at the age of eleven. He set up his own shop when he was twenty-one and settled in Boston, painting clock faces, signs, and furniture. He was friends with the artist Gilbert Stuart, spending time in his studio and even naming his only son after him. Penniman was a successful painter and lithographer but a bad businessman whose drinking ruined his career. In 1827 he sold all of his paintings to pay off his debts and spent the rest of his life in trouble with the law. One of the artist’s relatives described him as “a very genial gentleman who loved his wine. His patrons were much annoyed by his habits of leaving them in their poses should the urge for liquor come upon him . . .” (Penniman Archives, Braintree Historical Society, in “John Ritto Penniman: An Ingenious New England Artist,” The Magazine Antiques, 1981)