Thomas Sully (1783-1872) painted some of the most dynamic personalities of the 19th century, including Queen Victoria, Thomas Jefferson, and the Marquis de Lafayette. Although he created more than two thousand portraits and subject paintings, his full production has never before been examined in depth. The child of actors, Sully's lifelong connection to the theater informed his imagination. His portraits of 19th-century actors, celebrities, royalty, and politicians established his reputation, and would mark all his works, particularly his "fancy pictures," portraits evoking scenes from literature, fairy tales, Shakespeare, or of his own devising. This essential introduction demonstrates how the artist interpreted the nature of painting as performance, manifested in his dazzling productions. Three essays, 160 color reproductions, and an illustrated chronology survey and elucidate his career.
William Keyse Rudolph is Dudley J. Godfrey Jr. Curator of American Art and Decorative Arts and Director of Exhibitions at the Milwaukee Art Museum. Carol Eaton Soltis is project associate curator at the Center for American Art at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.