PROVENANCE: Purchased in Baltimore
REFERENCE: Robert G. Stewart, Robert Edge Pine: A British Portrait Painter in America, 1784-1788 (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, National Portrait Gallery, 1979)
Robert Edge Pine was the son of the English engraver John Pine (1690-1756) and thus a part of the London art world from the time of his birth. Little is known of his artistic training. His earliest recorded work is The Surrender of Calais to Richard III, for which he won a first prize from the Society for the Encouragement of the Arts in 1760. The same year he showed A Mad Woman in the first exhibition of the Society of Artists. He continued to exhibit there and with the Free Society of Artists through 1772.
Physically a small man, Pine was known for his difficult temperament. His politics were considered radical and he was known to sympathize with the American cause. While still in England he painted a large (9 feet, six inches by six feet, ten inches) allegory, America, known today from an engraving. In 1784 Pine came to the United States armed with an introduction to Washington, of whom he hoped to paint numerous remunerative portraits, and a plan for a grand series of at least eight historical paintings of the Revolution on the scale of America. Of this series, only Congress Voting Independence is known from a small copy (Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia) painted by Edward Savage (1761-1817), although, according to the records of Pine's estate, others were left unfinished at his death. In his four years in America (he died in 1788), Pine painted more than ninety works, mostly portraits. In completing these, he was aided by his daughters and his wife, who also ran a drawing school in Philadelphia. Pine brought America and a number of paintings of Shakespearean subjects with him to the United States and obtained permission to exhibit them in the State House (Independence Hall; he subsequently exhibited them in a house he built on Eighth Street, the first American building with space intended for the exhibition of paintings). The catalogue for this exhibition (Library Company of Philadelphia) is the first printed in the United States.
Robert Stewart, who attributed this portrait to Pine, further suggests that it may have been painted during the period when the artist was in Annapolis and Baltimore between May of 1785 and the end of the following winter. While it is tempting to associate the grapes in the child’s hand with families who were known to both cultivate grapes and also have portraits executed by Pine (such as Charles Carroll of Carrollton, a signatory of the Declaration of Independence) the identity of the sitter is unknown.
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