JOHN BREWSTER, JR. (1766-1854)
JOHN BREWSTER, JR. (1766-1854)
JOHN BREWSTER, JR. (1766-1854)
JOHN BREWSTER, JR. (1766-1854)
3 More
JOHN BREWSTER, JR. (1766-1854)


JOHN BREWSTER, JR. (1766-1854)
in original pressed brass frame; reverse with sketch of a man's profile in chalk
Painted 1797-1809
oil on canvas
30 5⁄8 x 25 3⁄8 in.
Presumed line of descent:
Julia Ann (Bourne) Kingsbury (1803-1884), Kennebunk, Maine, daughter of the sitter
George Henry Kingsbury (1827-1899), son
Edmund Winchester Kingsbury (1862-1931), son
Helen D. Ovington (Mrs. E. Winchester Kingsbury) (1870-1961), wife
Theodore Ovington Kingsbury (1906-1997), Kennebunk, son
F.O. Bailey Co., Inc., Kennebunk, Maine, August 8-9, 1979
Mary Allis Antiques, Southport, Connecticut, by purchase from above, 1979-1984
Acquired from above, March 1984
Nina Fletcher Little, "John Brewster, Jr., 1766-1854: Deaf-Mute Portrait Painter of Connecticut and Maine," Connecticut Hisotircal Society Bulletin, vol. 25, no. 4 (October 1960), pp. 109, 126, fig. 31.
Laura Fecych Sprague, ed., Agreeable Situations: Society, Commerce, and Art in Southern Maine, 1780-1830 (Boston, 1987), p. 89 (referenced).
Harlan Lane, A Deaf Artist in Early America: The Worlds of John Brewster, Jr. (Boston, 2004), p. 44 and included in inventory, n.p.
The Frick Art Reference Library, ref. 121-11a.
Peter Goodman, Notebook, no. 826.
Connecticut, The Connecticut Historical Society and Waterville, Maine, Bixler Art and Music Center, Colby College, John Brewster, Jr., 1766-1854, 6 November-31 December 1960 (Connecticut) and 15 January-25 February 1961 (Maine).
Cooperstown, New York, Fenimore Art Museum and New York, American Folk Art Museum, A Deaf Artist in Early America: The Worlds of John Brewster Jr., 1 April 2005-31 December 2005 (Cooperstown), 4 October 2006-7 January 2007 (New York City).

Brought to you by

Cara Zimmerman
Cara Zimmerman Head of Americana and Outsider Art

Check the condition report or get in touch for additional information about this

If you wish to view the condition report of this lot, please sign in to your account.

Sign in
View condition report

Lot Essay

"If you can't hear, you somehow see."
--David Hockney, cited in Bernard Weinraub, "Enticed by Bright Light; From David Hockney, a Show of Photocollages in Los Angeles," The New York Times, 15 August 2001, Section E, p. 1.

Masterfully rendered with the artist’s signature subtle palette, precise delineation and background shaded with a halo effect around the sitter, this portrait of Captain John Bourne is a supreme testament to the talents of John Brewster, Jr. (1766-1854). While the artist was unable to communicate verbally, his visual gifts were extraordinary and in his most successful works such as that offered here, he conveyed a remarkable degree of serenity and dignity to his subjects. At the same time, Brewster was also able to create an exacting likeness. Though Bourne’s image is only known through this portrait, images of his son and grandson show a remarkable family resemblance and attest to Brewster’s ability to capture the individuality of each sitter (portrait of Edward Emerson Bourne (1797-1873) by Hannah Brown Skeele at the Brick Store Museum, Kennebunk, Maine, acc. no. 69.116; lithograph of Edward Emerson Bourne, Jr. (1831-1894) in Edward E. Bourne, History of Wells and Kennebunk (Portland, Maine, 1875), frontispiece). The portrait offered here is a companion to that of Bourne’s third wife, Eliza (Perkins) (Wildes) Bourne (1765-1844), whom he married in 1794, which is now in the collection of the Brick Store Museum.

This portrait’s significance is enhanced by its original frame and by an unusual chalk rendition on the reverse. The pressed brass frame is a rare survival, most likely due to the portrait’s long uninterrupted history in the house it adorned in the early nineteenth century (see below). On the back of the canvas is a small image in chalk of a boy or young man in profile. This may well be a study for a portrait of Bourne’s son, Edward Emerson Bourne (1797-1873), who later recalled “Some years previous, Brewster the deaf and dumb painter cut out [Edward’s] profile and wrote on it the words, ‘Bashful Boy’” (cited in Nina Fletcher Little, “John Brewster, Jr., 1766-1854: Deaf-Mute Portrait Painter of Connecticut and Maine,” Connecticut Historical Society Bulletin (October 1960), p. 101). If it is, it would indicate that the portrait of John Bourne offered here was painted in the early nineteenth century, when young Edward was a youth. Brewster was in Buxton, Maine, about 25 miles from Kennebunk, from April 1796 to August 1797, when he painted relations of Bourne’s wife in the Perkins family and it is possible that this portrait was painted around this time. However, Brewster continued to render likenesses of the extended Perkins family in Maine up until 1809 (Harlan Lane, A Deaf Artist in Early America: The Worlds of John Brewster, Jr. (Boston, 2004), p. 44).

Born in Wells, Maine, Captain John Bourne served as a private in Captain Sawyer’s company during the first year of the American Revolution. From 1775-1776, the company marched to New York, up into Canada and via Albany down to Trenton, New Jersey, where they were discharged. In 1780, Bourne moved to Kennebunk where he became a prosperous shipbuilder and supplied vessels to some of the most significant merchants of the region, including Theodore Lyman of Kennebunk and William Gray of Salem. When Lyman left the area, Bourne purchased his house in 1806 at 108 Summer Street (Bourne, op. cit., pp. 496, 497, 756-757). There, the portraits of Captain John and Eliza Bourne were hung facing each other in the front hall, where they remained through successive generations until the late twentieth century. In the summer of 1979, both portraits were sold at an auction held at this house, then owned by Theodore Ovington Kingsbury (1906-1997), Captain John Bourne’s great-great-great grandson.

More from The Collection of Peter and Barbara Goodman

View All
View All