Charles Bird King

Inducted: 2012
Born: 1785 - Died:

King, Charles Bird, 1785-1862

Charles Bird King (September 26, 1785 – March 18, 1862) was born in Newport, the only child of Deborah Bird and Revolutionary War veteran Captain Zebulon King, who moved the family to Ohio in 1789 and was killed there by Indians.

When Charles King was fifteen, he went to New York to study portrait painting, and he then journeyed to London, where he was taught by Benjamin West at the Royal Academy.

After returning to America in 1812, he eventually settled in Washington, D.C., where he was able to paint the portraits of two presidents (Monroe and J. Q. Adams) and many noted politicians. His most notable works, however, are the 143 portraits he painted of Native American delegations that came to Washington under the auspices of the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs between 1822 and 1842, a collection which became known as the Indian Gallery. Unfortunately many of these original portraits were destroyed in a fire at the Smithsonian Institution where they were kept, but they survive as copies and in lithograph form. Bird returned frequently to Newport in the summer, but he died in Washington.

– (Dr.) Patrick T. Conley

Scroll to Top