Oliver Tarbell Eddy (1799-1868)
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Oliver Tarbell Eddy, American (1799-1868) was born in Greenbush, Vermont, the oldest son of inventor, printer, and engraver Isaac Eddy, who traced his ancestry back to the Mayflower. Although his father instructed him how to engrave on copper, Eddy evidently taught himself how to paint. He married Jane Maria Burger, daughter of the silversmith Thomas Burger, in Newburgh, New York in 1822. Eddy was active as a portrait and miniature painter in New York City by 1826, and exhibited a portrait at the National Academy of Design the following year. He moved to Elizabeth, New Jersey, in 1831 and then to Newark in 1835. Eddy was extremely successful in Newark and painted at least thirteen portraits of members of the family of a hat manufacturer named William Rankin. Eddy lived in Baltimore from 1842 to 1850, painting portraits and inventing a precursor to the typewriter. He lived in Philadelphia until his death.
Eddy’s style is typical of the better class of self-taught painters of the 19th century. His sitters are meticulously rendered, invariably rather stiff and solemn. One has to remember the conventions of the time- smiling, active portraits were not to become fashionable until the end of the century. Many of his group portraits are in fact an assortment of single portraits awkwardly arranged. Eddy?s debt to the 17th century Dutch masters is obvious in his fine treatment of the interior settings and costumes, with carpets and furniture richly displayed. There is none of the casual attitude to background common in 19th century portraiture. Eddy?s meticulousness derives from his early training in copper engraving, an art requiring great precision. This also enabled him to become an accomplished miniaturist.
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