Medium: oil on canvas
Date: circa 1850
Size: 25" x 30" (sight)
30 3/4" x 35" (overall)
Condition: This painting has been cleaned and lined on linen using Beva 371 film. There is a small area of in-painting on jacket to conceal a scratch. There is a collectors label on the frame verso that says "7.16.52. Coolidge A2"
Kennedy is generally regarded as one of the folk painters of the Prior-Hamblin School, named for brothers-in-law William Matthew Prior (1806-1873) and Sturtevant J. Hamblen (active 1837-1856). No direct link to these artists has yet been found, although Kennedy worked in Massachusetts at the same time Prior and Hamblen did, and lived a few doors away from Prior in Baltimore in the late 1850s.
Research by the Folk Art Center has revealed fourteen signed examples of Kennedy's work, which provide the basis for additional attributions. Stylistically, Kennedy's crisp, flat likenesses strongly resemble the Prior and Hamblen portraits. His work can be distinguished from theirs by his consistent portrayal of his sitters with steeply sloping shoulders, squared noses, and small, pursed lips.Other peculiarities include, a U-shaped configuration connecting the eyebrows and and nose of the subject, exaggerated shading around the nose, and a dark line between the lips: often with a T formation at each corner of the mouth. Above all else this painting is indicative of Kennedy's work in the treatment of the drapes which are undefined and in two colors.
Kennedy advertised inexpensive portraits done in a single sitting. This would certainly explain the roughness in this painting compared to others which are less modeled and more accurately executed. A closeup of the beard and the shoulder seems to imply that they were reconsidered without a great deal of effort.
Still, there is something charming in the spontaneity of this portrait.
William W Kennedy Portrait of a Gentleman