Medium: oil on canvas
Date: circa 1810
Size: 25" x 30" (sight)
36 3/4" x 42" (overall)
Frame: original birds-eye maple frame with replacement liner.
Condition: This painting has been cleaned, and lined on linen using Beva 371 film. There is small areas of in-painting to repair flaking overall.
Joseph Mason was born in Delaware, Ohio, son of Joseph Mason a prosperous bookseller. (There has been some confusion about Mason's birth and death dates).) He first studied with John James Audubon at the Western Academy in Cincinnati. Audubon was so impressed with Mason's skill as a draftsman that he invited the youth to accompany him to the lower Mississippi River Valley, drawing landscape and floral details for the bird pictures when Mason was only fifteen years old. Mason's eye for detail and accomplished understanding of perspective enhanced the sense of scale and proportion of the ornithological subjects. At least fifty of his drawings were used for the completed drawings without credit, Audubon having signed his name in ink after having Mason sign in pencil. The pair parted in August of 1822: Mason stayed behind in Natchez to paint portraits prior to returning to Cincinnati, upon his fathers death, to open a studio later that year. Mason came from a family of means which may account for the dearth of information on his career after 1832 , when he lived quietly in the Cincinnati area apparently unmotivated by profit incentive. He died in his native Brown County Ohio in 1842 after a bout of pneumonia.
A painting very similar in style to this portrait is one of Marie Jane Andrews painted in 1841, which is in the possession of the Indianapolis Museum of Art. In this painting Marie Jane (who was painted postmortem) is seen in the company of her favorite books. The Holy Bible in this portrait is no coincidence. It was apparently a practice with Mason to show the sitter with their favorite books in order to convey some indication of their personality or livelihood.
Joseph Mason (1808-1842) Portrait of a Minister