Robert Feke proved to be the most talented native-born North American painter prior to John Singleton Copley. He was also a major influence on Copley himself, who would become the greatest North American artist of the colonial period. Feke was born in about 1707 in Oyster Bay, Long Island, New...
Robert Feke proved to be the most talented native-born North American painter prior to John Singleton Copley. He was also a major influence on Copley himself, who would become the greatest North American artist of the colonial period. Feke was born in about 1707 in Oyster Bay, Long Island, New York, and worked in Newport, Philadelphia, and Boston. Although he had no formal training, his style indicates the direct influence of John Smibert and an awareness of contemporary British and Continental painting. Approximately sixty paintings by Feke are known today, of which twelve are signed and dated. This portrait of Isaac Winslow is representative of Feke’s linear style, rococo palette, and accurate characterization of his sitters. The commissioning of likenesses was a Winslow family tradition; Isaac’s father, Edward Winslow, a distinguished Boston silversmith, had earlier sat for John Smibert, as had his older brother, Joshua. After graduating from Harvard in 1727, Isaac apprenticed in the counting room of merchant James Bowdoin, another patronof Feke, before entering the shipbuilding and import/export business with his brother. The MFA owns three portraits of Isaac, painted by the leading colonial artists of his day: Feke, Joseph Blackburn [42.684], and Copley [39.250]. Feke’s portrait probably commemorated Winslow’s marriage in 1747 to Lucy Waldo, whose pendant portrait by Feke is in the Brooklyn Museum. Winslow’s father-in-law, General Samuel Waldo (who was the subject of a full-length painting by Feke now at the Bowdoin College Museum of Art, Brunswick, Maine), soon brought Winslow into the Kennebec Proprietors, a group that owned vast tracts of land in Maine. Feke portrayed Winslow in a dignified pose, pointing to a harbor with a ship in the distance and a small boat with two figures landing at the shore. This background may refer both to Winslow’s efforts to settle the Maine properties and to his mercantile business. Feke captured the richness of Winslow’s clothing, lavishing attention on his fashionable ivory-colored satin waistcoat, embroidered with metallic thread. His ability to convey the status of his sitters through stately poses, elegant attire, and pastel-colored background vistas led to the commissioning of numerous portraits by Boston’s elite during Feke's visit to the city in 1748. This text was adapted from Elliot Bostwick Davis et al.,American Painting[http://www.mfashop.com/9020398034.html], MFA Highlights (Boston: MFA Publications, 2003).
About 1748, the sitter, Isaac Winslow (1707-1777), Boston; descended to Elizabeth Winslow Pickering (1787-1866), great-niece of the sitter; 1873, by descent to her son, Arthur Pickering, Roxbury, Mass.; by inheritance to his daughter, Susan Howard Pickering, Boston and York Harbor, Me.; 1936, to Russell Wiles, Chicago, great, great, great grandson of the sitter; 1942, gift of Russell Wiles to the MFA. (Accession Date: September 11, 1942)
Gift in memory of the sitter's granddaughter (Mary Russell Winslow Bradford 1793-1899) by her great grandson, Russell Wiles