Portrait of Mary Siddons Whelen (1788 - 1867)
Thomas Sully, American (born England), 1783 - 1872
In 1809, a year after settling in Philadelphia, Thomas Sully sailed to London to further his artistic education. Among the British artists he met there was Sir Thomas Lawrence, whose richly painted romantic portraiture inspired Sully to adopt a similar style for his Philadelphia patrons. He completed this large, beguiling portrait of Mary Siddons Whelen in just one month; such speed suggests that he modeled the composition on a similar work by Lawrence. Still, the sensuous, graceful lines describing the sitter and the fitful movement of light over the contrasting smooth and rough forms of the picturesque landscape display Sully's independent artistry.