Frederick Mayhew painted in southeastern Massachusetts and lived in Martha’s Vineyard until the 1830s, when he went to Ohio. The deed for his 1824 purchase of twenty acres of farmland in Martha’s Vineyard cited his vocation as a “limner.” His advertisements placed in a local newspaper, the New Bedford Mercury, identify him also as a painter and a miniaturist.
Lynda Roscoe Hartigan Made with Passion: The Hemphill Folk Art Collection in the National Museum of American Art (Washington, D.C. and London: National Museum of American Art with the Smithsonian Institution Press, 1990)
Frederick Mayhew worked in New Bedford, Massachusetts, and on the island of Martha’s Vineyard, where he was born in the small farming community of Chilmark. He began his career as a profile painter, and eventually began to paint more detailed, full portraits, mostly of whaling captains and their families. His portraits of these mariners and merchants document their status as an emerging middle class. According to Martha’s Vineyard lore, he made his paint by mixing Gay Head clay and dogfish oil, but this is likely more myth than reality. In 1834, Mayhew, his wife, and daughter settled in Noble County, Ohio, where he turned to farming exclusively. (Thomas, “Frederick Mayhew, ‘Limner’: Portraits of Early Nineteenth-Century New Bedford and Martha’s Vineyard,” in Benes, ed., Painting and Portrait Making in the American Northeast, 1995)