Portrait of Aaron Corwine
Artist: John James Audubon (1785-1851)
Pencil on paper
9 ¼ ” x (5 ¼ “- 6 ¾ “) sight size, width varies due to an uneven margin (13 3/8″ x 11 7/8” frame size)
Ref. No. 070320_059
This portrait is inscribed below the sitter’s hand, J J Audubon July 1820 for the Western Museum. It is framed in an old associated frame with acid-free mounts and UV filtering glass.
The margin to the viewer’s right is uneven, possibly due to a hasty tear from a larger sheet. The paper was once folded with consideration afforded the image, but now with creases surrounding subject. An additional paper, positioned loosely to the adjoining uneven edge, appears to match that on which the portrait is drawn — suggesting both are probably from a common source. A brown stain over the artist’s signature was caused by corrosive contact (maybe an iron fastener close to that point from the rear), otherwise in nice condition with a clean and precise image of a beautiful subject.
Aaron Corwine (1802-1830) was born in Maysville, Kentucky leaving at age fifteen with a letter of introduction to Dr. Daniel Drake at the Western Museum in Cincinnati Ohio. Corwine, encouraged by his father, was befriended by Drake and promoted in the Cincinnati Inquisitor, as “literally self-taught, ingenious and promising youth.” This permitted the young artist to secure commissions from Drake and others, which in turn enabled Corwine a trip to Philadelphia for study with Thomas Sully. Upon his return, he became the most prominent artist working at Cincinnati during the 1820s.
In the summer of 1820, Audubon had accepted a position of taxidermist, which expanded to background painter for the exhibits and art instructor at the Western Museum. Corwine’s portrait was drawn when the subject was seventeen, this being one of at least four individuals drawn by Audubon that were assigned For the Western Museum. Another is a portrait of John Cleves dated Aug 20 1820 Western Museum, which is now in the New York Historical Society. Two others, of Elijah Slack and his wife, drawn in July and August respectively, are in the collection of the Princeton University Library. Both are of similar paper size to this portrait, which possibly suggests all could have been from the same binding.
A self-portrait of Corwine in oil, executed the last year of his life, can be viewed at the Mason County Museum in Maysville, Kentucky. A wax miniature relief profile bust of Corwine, thought to have been taken in 1823 at Cincinnati, is in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.
American Art in St. Louis: Paintings, Watercolors, and Drawings Privately Owned Oct. 22 – Nov. 30,1969, City Art Museum, St. Louis, Missouri.
Dwight, Edward H. “Audubon watercolors and drawings.” Exhibited at Munson-Williams-Proctor Institute, April 11 through May 30, 1965 [and] the Pierpont Morgan Library, June 15 through July 30, 1965.”1965: plates 32 & 33.
Dwight, Edward H. “Aaron Houghton Corwine.” The Magazine Antiques June 1955: 502-504.
McDermott, John Francis. “Likenesses By Audubon.” The Magazine Antiques June 1955: 499-501.
*Note: The Magazine Antiques, June, 1955 provided much of the biographical information in this description.