William C. Bonnell
Portrait of a Man
Oil on canvas, 29 1/8 × 24 1/4 inches
Signed and dated in brown paint on verso: “William Bonnell/Pinxit/July 9th 1825”
The portraitist William C. Bonnell was born in Clinton, New Jersey, the fourth child of Col. Clement du Mont and Rachel Wolverton Bonnell.
His grandfather had served as a colonel during the American Revolution and
owned a tavern that was the first place in the area where minutemen were
recruited. Bonnell belonged to the Bethlehem Presbyterian Church in Grandin and
was buried in the church’s graveyard.
Bonnell, who painted in a
nonacademic linear style, is known to have produced approximately twenty
portraits between 1823 and 1833, some of which vary so widely in style that it
is difficult to believe they were all painted by the same artist. He was
primarily active in New Jersey but is known to have traveled to neighboring
Warminster, Bucks County, Pennsylvania, in 1833 to paint portraits of Andrew
and Eliza Yerkes (Mercer Museum of the Bucks County Historical Society, Doylestown, Pennsylvania). He painted at least seven portraits of residents of Hunterdon County in 1825. Many of his likenesses, such as this example, are signed and
dated in brown paint on the reverse. The noted collectors of American folk art,
Edgar William and Bernice Chrysler Garbisch, acquired Bonnell’s portrait of his
father Clement Bonnell (c. 1825) and presented it to the National Gallery of
Art in Washington, D.C., in 1953. The Garbisches also presented three portraits
of members of the Bonham family, which Bonnell painted between March 4 and 5,
1825, to the Art Institute of Chicago in 1980.
Copyright©2008 The Schwarz Gallery