Jane Stuart was Newport’s first woman portraitist, following in the illustrious footsteps of her famous father Gilbert Stuart. Jane was the youngest of his twelve children and his tenth daughter. She appears to be the great artist’s favorite offspring, and worked with him in his declining years until his death in 1828, often completing the portraits he had begun.
When her father died penniless, Stuart, at the age of sixteen became the sole support of the family. She established her own studio in Boston and earned a living by painting portraits and miniatures in oils and making copies of her father’s portraits, especially his famous portraits of George Washington. In 1863, she acquired a home and studio at 86 Mill Street in Newport, Rhode Island; but she continued to maintain her studio in Boston until a fire destroyed it in the 1850s. In Newport, for the final twenty-five years of her life, she worked, entertained a wide spectrum of local literati and community leaders, and displayed her paintings as well as several relics from her father’s career.
Jane was not only a skilled copyist of paintings, especially those of her father, but a fine portraitist in her own right whose recognition was to a degree hampered by her gender. She was adept at a variety of subjects and had adistinctive style of her own. Jane was also an influential art teacher. One art historian has noted that there are 120 citations to her paintings in collections across the country and describes Jane as “a lively and prolific contributor to American art.”
– (Dr.) Patrick T. Conley