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Name: James Reid Lambdin
Dates: (1807 - 1889)
Nationality: American
Biography: James Reid Lambdin, painter, museum director, artists advocate and father of George Cochran Lambdin was born in Pittsburgh PA in 1807. James moved to Philadelphia to study painting first with the English miniaturist Edward Miles(1752-1828) and then with the distinguished portrait painter Thomas Sully (1783-1872). While there he joined the Painters Club of Philadelphia whose members included Thomas Birch (1779-1851)7 among others. James returned to Pittsburgh in 1824 to teach and accept portrait commissions and he would also travel south for the first of many painting trips1. In 1827 he had an opportunity for European travel so he traveled to New York City, painting portraits along the way2. The trip to Europe fell through 3 but he did meet Rubens Peale, visited his museum in New York and was encouraged to start one himself in Pittsburgh4 .James Lambdin’s Museum of Natural History and Gallery of Painting in Pittsburgh opened in 1828.

Lambdin moved the Museum down south where he had family and portrait commissions to Louisville, Kentucky. After running the museum for many years he sold it in 1837 to pursue painting almost exclusively settling down finally in Philadelphia. James Lambdin was a member of the Artists Fund society, National Academy of Design exhibiting there in 1845 and the United States Art Commision5. A leader of the National Convention of Artists which demanded congress to let American artists decorate the Capitol buildings.He exhibited and was the director of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts from 1845 to 1864 6 as well as a professor of fine art at the University of Pennsylvania from 1861 to 18667. James work is represented in numerous museums and private collections.

NOTES
1. J. R. Lambdin Journal, pt. 1, pp. 46–47.
2. J. R. Lambdin Journal, pt. 2, pp. 9–13.
3. J. R. Lambdin Journal, pt. 2, p. 13. According to Dictionary of American Biography, s.v. “Wilkins, William,” the judge experienced financial problems in about 1828.
4. J. R. Lambdin Journal, pt. 2, pp. 17–18.
5. Dictionary of American Biography, s.v. “Lambdin, James Reid.”
6. “Report of the United States Art Commission.” House Doc. no. 43, 36th Congress, 1st session, March 1860. Also published in Henry K. Brown, James R. Lambdin, and John F. Kensett, “Report of the U.S. Art Commissioners” [To the President of the United States] Crayon 7 (April 1860): 106–9. See also “Sketchings: Art of the Capitol, Washington,” Crayon 5 (October 1858): 295–96.
7. Dictionary of American Biography, s.v. “Lambdin, James Reid.”

Adapted from an essay by Ruth Irwin Widner.

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