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Portrait of Andrew Jackson, Circa 1833
Ralph EW Earl (1785-1838)

View Artist Bio
Oil on canvas
Status: Private Collection, Florida

Ralph E. W. Earl was born into a family of painters. Both his father, Ralph Earl (1751-1801), and uncle, James Earl (1761-1796), painted widely through the new American nation, creating enduring images of many of the founding fathers and their families. His cousin, Augustus Earle (1793-1839), was also a painter of international renown.

Born in England, Ralph E. W. first studied art with his father in Northampton, Massachusetts. In 1809-1810, he was in London, where he took lessons from the portraitists and history painters Benjamin West and John Trumbull. Earl then returned to the United States, settling in Norwich, Connecticut for a four-year stay before traveling abroad once again. He spent a year in Paris, studying the great works of European art that Napoleon Bonaparte had collected during military campaigns.

Earl's artistic career took an important turn in 1817 when he visited Nashville, Tennessee to paint a portrait of General Andrew Jackson, hero of the 1815 Battle of New Orleans. He subsequently married Mrs. Jackson's niece and became an integral part of the extended family based at the Hermitage plantation. When Jackson went to Washington as president in 1829, Earl went with him, recording the president's likeness numerous times over two terms in office. After eight years as president, Jackson and Earl, roundly recognized as Jackson's closest companion, returned to the Hermitage, where the artist died only a year and a half later.

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This essay is copyrighted by Robert M. Hicklin Jr., Inc. and may not be reproduced or transmitted without written permission.

 

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