James Sullivan Lincoln (1811-1888) was Rhode Island’s premier artist of the mid-nineteenth century and has been acclaimed by his peers as “Father of Rhode Island Art.”
The Massachusetts-born Lincoln was orphaned in his teens and left his Bay State farm to become an apprentice to a firm of Providence engravers and then to Providence portraitist C. T. Hinckley. Lincoln soon discovered his talent for painting, especially portraiture, and in 1832 he began a sixty-year career during which he produced over 4,000 painted and photographic images. His oils, crayons, and photographs were the media he used to create and preserve the faces of nineteenth century Rhode Island.
During the course of six decades, Lincoln received numerous commissions to depict local men, women, and families and he did so by rendering faithful likenesses guided by his creative instincts. His subjects included such Rhode Island Hall of Fame inductees as Samuel Slater, Zachariah Allen, William Read Staples, Henry Barnard, Wilkins Updike, Ambrose Burnside, William Sprague, Amos Chafee Barstow, and John Russell Bartlett.
In 1880, the Providence Art Club recognized the contributions and preeminence of James Sullivan Lincoln by electing him its first president.
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