Friday, October 21, 2011

John Bradley, Folk Artist by Milton Trexler









John Bradley's known artistic career ranged from 1827 to 1847. This earlier date of 1827 is based on the October 2005 discovery of a Painting of a Prize Cow in a Field, signed "Drawn by I Bradley, Honington, Suffolk 1827" and a pair of child portraits, signed "I. Bradley, Limner, Suffolk 1830" that were seen at the Athenaeum in Bury St Edmunds on June 15, 2005, and were "consigned to Bonhams Ipswich from a deceased estate." Mary Axon, of Bonhams, who first examined these pictures ("English canvas and frames"), is certain "that Bradley originated in Suffolk." (1)


Young Boy with Toy Horse (1820) Suffolk


                                                                                 


Girl Holding Doll in an Interior (1830) Suffolk
This new evidence substantiates that he was a resident of East Anglia and did not arrive in America aboard the "Carolina Ann" from Ireland in 1826 as suggested by Mary Childs Black and Stuart P. Feld in their extensive study in 1966 and quoted in several other written accounts on Bradley.  And this, of course, brings up the question of what month and year did Bradley arrive in America.

The first portrait that definitely places him in America is of Asher Androvette, who is holding a copy of the 29 November 1832 issue of The New York and Richmond County Free Press. (2) Signed and dated "I. Bradley Delin. 1832", the painting places Bradley working with a Staten Island resident. (3) Thus the date for his arrival in America has to be between 1830 and November 1832. After a thorough investigation of passenger ship lists, four individuals named John Bradley arrived in New York between 1830 and 1832: one on March 27, 1832, aboard the ship "Citizen" out of Liverpool, age 21, listed as Irish and a "laborer"; another on June 14, 1832, abbreviated as Jno. Bradley, on the ship "Robert Peel" out of Hull, age 20, listed as from Great Britain and a farmer; another on August 27, 1832, on the ship "America" out of Liverpool, age 20, listed as from Ireland and a "labourer"; and a boy, aged 15, listed as Irish and a farmer aboard the "William Byrnes" on August 14, 1832. Yet none of these gentlemen, due to either age or occupation, seem likely candidates. A search of Boston and Philadelphia port records and a search of original U.S. naturalization papers with "John Bradley" signatures also produced inconclusive results. (4) Since he was a professional painter in Great Britain prior to his arrival, why is there no record of an immigrant named Bradley, recording his occupation on the ship's passenger list as "portrait painter" or "limner"?  Quite possibly the ship's records have been lost.

While it is known that thirty-three of his oil-on-canvas paintings were created in America in the met- ropolitan area and three, in Suffolk, England, we do not know where three of his half-portraits that are similar in signature, size, and style were created: Woman Before a Pianoforte, Young Boy Feeding Rabbits, and The Cellist.

Woman Before a Pianoforte (1831) 19 1/2 x 16"

                                             Young Boy Feeding Rabbits (1831) 17x15 1/2 in.
                                             The Cellist (1832), 17 3/4 x 16 1/4 in.


The signatures of these three interim paintings are identical except for the date of The Cellist. According to Hirschl and Adler, Woman Before a Pianoforte is signed and dated "J. Bradley Delin. 1931", but upon physical examination, the “J” could easily be construed as an "I". In fact, all of his dated paintings in America and Suffolk prior to 1836 were an "I", an old-style writing of "J." The miniature "n" in his signature is usually raised to a quotation-mark level and either appears as an "n" or as a quotation mark with the top of the “n” missing. In any case, the intended marking for Deli" is Delin or short for delineated or sketched out. Five signatures, all done in 1834, include "From Great Britton" on the back of the painting, which adds to the evidence that Bradley’s origin is British, not Irish.

The Cellist, signed and dated “I Bradley Delin.1932” and located at the Philips Collection in Washington, DC, is Bradley’s most critically acclaimed and well-known painting, hanging alongside of Edward Hicks and Henri Rousseau, both “primitive” painters. Edith Halpert, who discovered the painting in 1938 in Pennsylvania, said it was sold to her as an example of "the English school."(5) Clearly reflecting Bradley’s land of origin, it, as well as his other two interim portraits, may very well have been painted in England.

Young Boy Feeding Rabbits, signed and dated “I Bradley Delin. 1831”, seems to be a companion to The Cellist, with both subjects resembling each other in a father-son way with their wavy hair over their foreheads and their angular, aristocratic faces. These three half-portraits are almost the same size in contrast to Asher Andrevette, a full-portrait, but not as small as the children's portraits found in Suffolk. James Ayres, director of the John Judkyn Memorial at Bath, England, said that Young Boy Feeding Rabbits was sold by Rutland Galleries in Bath to a private buyer who in turn brought it to Sotheby's (letter of 18 November 1983 in National Gallery of Art-CF). On the other hand, it could have been painted in America, purchased by an English collector or dealer, taken to England, and eventually purchased by Rutland Galleries.

Woman Before a Pianoforte, contains a small, hardly noticed windmill on the right side of the paint-
ing, but that still does not prove English provenance. The first windmill came to America in 1620 and even appears on the New York City Seal of 1625. Surprisingly, there were many windmills, shipped from either England or Holland, in use on Long Island and elsewhere during the 19th century. (6) Furthermore, since Bradley's first three British paintings were marked Honington or Suffolk, one must wonder why these three interim paintings, if created in England, do not follow suit and record a place of origin, but rather are marked in the same manner as Asher Androvette and other later works that were definitely done in America.

Robert Bishop’s Knopf Collector's Guide, in regards to Young Boy Feeding Rabbits, suggests that "though some might believe that this picture is English because of the buttressed castle with turrets in the background, such details do occur in paintings as well as New England sewing boxes by American artists, who frequently relied upon European prints for their designs."  William Ketchum, Jr., in American Folk Art also adds, "Bradley, like many American folk painters, embellished his work with images taken from European prints, such as the castle seen here."(7)  And finally, in regards to these three half-portraits, Leslie Furth in The Eye of Duncan Philips concludes "Neither efforts to identify the sitter nor extensive analysis of costume, objects, and background represented in the painting yield conclusive proof of whether the picture was created in Great Britain or the United States."

The Cellist was found in a private collection, added to a 1938 Downtown Gallery exhibition and sold to Duncan Philips. Hirschl & Adler acquired Woman Before a Pianoforte in 1980, while one year later in 1981, Young Boy Feeding Rabbits was first sold at Sotheby's. Unless additional information is forthcoming, the creation of these three paintings along with the date of Bradley’s arrival in America will remain unresolved. But it is now correct to refer to Bradley as a British-American, self- taught artist.

(1) In an e-mail from Mary Axon's regarding Painting of a Prize Cow in a Field, she has corrected the Bonhams' catalogue, which mistakenly lists a "J Bradley" signature. It should be "I Bradley." Honington is a village just north of Bury St Edmunds.
(2) See Figure 62 in Nineteenth-Century Folk Painting: Our Spirited National Heritage: Works of Art from the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Peter Tillou for a photograph.
(3) Some researchers have suggested that Bradley first lived on Staten Island since nine of his paintings between 1833 and 1844 were of the Coles, Tottens and Ellises--all Staten Island residents. It was not until the 1836-1837 New York City Directory that Bradley is first listed in America as a "portrait painter" with a place of business at 56 Hammersley Street.  After the mid-1800s, the name changed, and Hammersley Street became a western extension of West Houston Street.
(4) On one Petition of Naturalization with the name “John Bradley," dated November 3, 1846, his witness, a John Delaney, lived at "80 Hammersly St, N.Y.C." The signature, however, is in script, while his painting signature is printed. "Former nationality" on the application is listed as English, but occupation, birth date, and port and date of arrival are left blank. (One had to be a resident for five years before applying for citizenship.) After 1847 there is no record of Bradley in New York City or elsewhere. After that from 1837-1844, the Directory lists him as a "por & min. painter" working at 128 Spring Street, and between 1844-1847, at 134 Spring Street as a "portrait painter." In turn, Bradley marked eleven paintings "128 Spring Street" and three paintings "134 Spring Street." Since Black and Feld's study, seventeen additional portraits have surfaced, which now makes thirty-nine portraits.
(5) See page 174 in The Eye of Duncan Philips: A Collection in the Making for a more detailed history of the painting.
(6) Russ Baker, Mid-America Windmill Museum, Kendallville, IN
(7) A circa 1820 sewing box fron the Nina Little collection:


NOTE: There are twelve known paintings of children, seven of them done at the 128 Spring Street, four of which are in major museums. Vice President Bush raided one of these museums and selected Little Girl in Lavender from the National Gallery of Art in 1981 for his Vice Presidential home. It was not returned until 1989.


                                        Emma Homan, Metropolitan Museum of Art

Literature
"Art in America," Volume XXXIII, July 1945, pp. 154-66 Jean Lipman's premier survey on John Bradley
'Drawn by I. Bradley From Great Briton' by Mary Childs Black, Director of Early American Folk Art and Stuart P. Feld, Associate Curator of American Paintings, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1966
Nineteenth-Century Folk Painting: Our Spirited National Heritage: Works of Art from the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Peter Tillou, The William Benton Museum of Art, University of Connecticut, Storrs, 1973.
American Folk Portraits, Beatrix Rumford, 1981
The Knopf Collectors' Guides to American Antiques: FOLK ART by Robert Bishop and others, 1983
Treasures of American Folk Art, Beatrix Rumford, 1989
American Naive Painters, Deborah Chotner, 1992
American Paintings by John Caldwell and Roque Oswaldo, Metropolitan Museum, Volume 1, 1994
American Folk Art by William C. Ketchum Jr., 1995 The Eye of Duncan Phillips: A Collection in the Making by Erika Passantino, editor, 1999
Little Girl in Lavender
National Gallery of Art
Emma Homan
Metropolitan Museum of Art

 LIST OF PAINTINGS BY JOHN BRADLEY*
1 Painting of a Prize Cow in a Field. Oil on canvas, 15 1⁄2 x 21 1⁄2 in. Signed and dated: 'I Bradley, Honington, Suffolk 1827' (On sale Oct. 5, 2005 at (Bonhams Assembly House, Norwich)
2 Girl Holding a Doll in an Interior. Oil on canvas, 12 x 11 in. Signed and dated: 'I. Bradley, Limner, Suffolk 1830'. (Sold at Bonhams, Ipswich June 15, 2005)
3 Young Boy with Toy Horse. Oil on canvas, 12 x 11 in. Signed and dated: I. Bradley, Limner, Suffolk 1830'. (Sold at Bonhams, Ipswich June 15, 2005)
4 Young Boy Feeding Rabbits. Oil on canvas, 17 x 15 1⁄2 in. Signed and dated (at lower right): 'I. Bradley Delin. 1831'. Collection of Laurance Rockefeller to a private collection.
5 Woman Before a Pianoforte, Oil on canvas, 19 1⁄2 x 16 1⁄2 in. Signed and dated: 'I. Bradley Delin. 1931' On consignment at Hirschl & Adler.
6 The Cellist. Oil on canvas, 17 3/4 x 16 1⁄4 in. Signed and dated: 'I. Bradley Delin. 1832'. The Phillips Collection, Washington, DC.
7 Asher Androvette. Oil on canvas, 28 5/8 x 26 1⁄4 in. Signed and dated: 'I. Bradley Delin. 1832'. Collection of Peter Tillou to William Benton Museum of Art, University of Conn.
8 Catherine Rachel Winant Cole (Mrs. John Cole). Born 1813, died 1871. Oil on canvas, 30 3/8 x 23 5/8 in. Signed, dated, and inscribed (on the back): 'Mrs Catherine R. Cole. / Aged 19 Years./ Drawn by I Bradley May 1 th. 1833'. Staten Island Historical Society, NY.
9 Captain John Cole. Born 1807, death date unknown. Oil on canvas, 30 3⁄4 x 27 3⁄4 in. Signed and dated: 'I. Bradley Deli" 1833'. Signed, dated, and inscribed (on the back). 'Capt. John Cole / Aged 26 Years./ Drawn by I Bradley May 1th. 1833 '. Staten Island Historical Society, NY.
10 Simon Content. Oil on canvas, 30 1⁄2 x 26 in. Signed and dated: 'I. Bradley Del. 1833'. Dated and inscribed (on the back): 'Simon Content / Taken in the Year 1833 Dec. / A Native from Holland / New York / America...[illegible]'. Collection of Mrs. John Gordon, NY.
11 Angelina Pike Content (Mrs. Simon Content). Oil on canvas, 30 1⁄2 x 26 in. Signed and dated: 'I. Bradley Deli" / 1833'. Collection of Mrs. John Gordon, NY.
12 Ann Cole Totten (Mrs. John Totten). Born 1773, died 1840. Oil on canvas, 32 5/8 x 26 in. Signed and dated: 'I. Bradley Fecit 1834'. Signed, dated and inscribed (on the back): Ann Totten / Aged 61 Years 1834 / Drawn by I. Bradley / From Great Britton'. Staten Island Historical Society, NY.
13 John Totten. Born 1771, died 1846. Oil on canvas, 32 1⁄2 x 26 3⁄4 in. Signed and dated: 'I. Bradley Fecit 1834'. Signed, dated and inscribed (on the back): 'John Totten / Aged 63 Years 1834 / Drawn; by I. Bradley / From Great Britton'. Staten Island Historical Society, NY. (STOLEN)
14 John Totten (the Younger). Born 1801, death date unknown. Oil on canvas, 32 1⁄2 x 26 5/8 in. Signed, dated and inscribed (on the back): 'John Totten. / Aged 33 Years, 1834. June 19th / Drawn by I. Bradley. / From Great Britton'. Collection of Edgar William and Bernice Chrysler Garbisch, NY.
15 Mary Ann Totten (Mrs. Abraham Cole Totten). Oil on canvas, 33 x 27 in. Signed and dated: 'I. Bradley Deli". 1834'. Signed, dated and inscribed (on the back): 'Mary Ann Totten / Aged 22 Years 1834. / Drawn by I. Bradley. / From Great Britton'. Collection of Stuart P. Feld, NY.
16 Abraham Cole Totten. Born 1804, death date unknown. Oil on canvas, 33 x 27 in. Signed and dated: 'I. Bradley Deli 1834'. Dated and inscribed (on sheet of paper, at lower left): 'A. C. Totten 1 834'. Signed, dated and inscribed (on the back): 'Abraham Cole Totten / Aged 30 Years 1834. / Drawn by I. Bradley / From Great Britton'. Collection of Stuart P. Feld, NY. Staten Island Historical Society, NY
17 Alice Murray Ellis (?) (Mrs. Abraham Ellis?). Oil on canvas, 32 1⁄4 x 25 3⁄4 in. Note: There is no signature on this painting, but a note on the back of an old photograph in the Staten Island Historical Society records that the picture was originally signed at the lower right, 'I. Bradley Del. 18--'. Staten Island Historical Society, NY
18 Abraham Ellis (?). Born 1809, died 1873. Oil on canvas, 32 1⁄4 x 25 3⁄4 in. Signed and dated: '1. Bradley Delin 1834 '. Staten Island Historical Society, NY.
19 Mr. Newton of Newton Hook, New York. Oil on canvas, 34 1⁄4 x 28 1⁄4 in. Signed and dated. 'I. Bradley Pinxit 1836'. Collection of Dr. Lyle Harrington, Barneveld, NY.
20 Girl with Doll. Oil on canvas, 34 1⁄4 x 28 1⁄4 in. Signed and dated: 'I. Bradley Pinxit 1836'. Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Collection, Williamsburg, VA.
21 Portrait of a Lady. Oil on canvas, 33 3⁄4 x 26 3⁄4 in. Signed and dated: ' J. Bradley, Pinx 1836'. National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa
22 Portrait of Mr. Fowler. Oil and distemper on canvas, 34 x 28 in. 1836. Memorial Art Gallery, University of Rochester
23 Portrait of Mrs. Fowler. Oil and distemper on canvas, 34 x 28 in. 1836. Memorial Art Gallery, University of Rochester
24 Portrait of a Surveyor, called Mr. Britton. Oil on canvas, 34 x 26 5/8 in. Signed and inscribed: 'by J. Bradley 128 Spring St'. Collection of Mrs. Hobart McVicker Agnew, Dorset, VT.
25 Portrait of a Lady, called Mrs. Stephens. Oil on canvas, 33 3⁄4 x 26 1⁄2 in. Signed and inscribed: 'by J. Bradley/128 Spring St'. Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College, Oberlin, OH.
26 Boy on Empire Sofa. Oil on canvas, 34 1⁄2 x 27 in. Signed and inscribed: 'by J. Bradley / 128 Spring St'. Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Collection, Wii1iamsburg, VA.
27 Little Girl in Lavender. Oil on canvas, 33 7/8 x 27 3/8 in. Signed and inscribed: 'by J. Bradley 128 Spring St'. National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC.
28 Emma Homan (later Emma Homan Thayer). Oil on canvas, 34 x 27 1⁄2 in. Signed and inscribed: 'by J. Bradley 128 Spring St.' Edgar William and Bernice Chrysler Garbisch to Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY.
29 Girl in Green Dress. Oil on canvas, 34 1⁄2 x 27 in. Signed: 'by J. Bradley, 128 Spring St. New York' and on back 'PREPARED BY THE O'KEEFE NEW YORK'. Collection of Stewart E. Gregory, Sotheby's January 27, 1997, to private collection, Sotheby's May 19, 2005.
30 Portrait of Emma French. Oil on canvas. Signed and inscribed J Bradley, '128 Spring Street". She was born in NYC on March 1, 1840, and died in Cincinnati, Ohio, on June 16, 1928.
31 Amanda Campbell. Oil on canvas: by J. Bradley 128 Spring St. Private collection.
32 Boy with Sinumbra Lamp, Oil on canvas; J. Bradley 128 Spring St. Private collection.
33 Mr. Wilson Butts Sheldon. Oil on canvas, 34 1⁄2 x 27 1⁄4 in. Signed and inscribed: 'by J. Bradley, 128 Spring Street, New York' and 'August 27, 1840' (on back). Owned by C. L. Prickett.
34 Mrs. Wilson Butts Sheldon. Ibid.
35 Martha Engle Banier Fisher, 43 x 26 3⁄4 in. Signed: 'J. Bradley, 128 Spring Street, New York 11'. Christie's October 21, 1995. Verso: A handwritten label 'Property of Francis Sweeny. Inherited from Margaret M. Tracy, 1921. Portrait of Martha Engle Banier (second marriage Fisher) My great grand- mother.
36 Portrait of Woman Holding Book by M.J. Fox. 34 x 27 1⁄4 in. Signed and inscribed: 'By John Bradley/134 Spring St/N.Y./Dec" 1845'. Sold by Herschl & Adler.
37 James Patterson Crawford. Born 1815, died 1874. Oil on canvas, 34 x 27 in. Signed and inscribed: 'by J. Bradley 134 Spring St. N. Y.' Monmouth County Historical Society, Freehold, NJ.
38 Margaretta Bowne Crawford (Mrs. James Patterson Crawford). Born 1817, died 1910. Oil on canvas, 34 x 27 in. Signed: 'by J. Bradley 134 Spring St. N.Y': Monmouth County Historical Society, Freehold, NJ.
39 Portrait of a Woman Seated with a Cat and a Book. 10.3 x 9.1 in. Signed (at lower right) 'J. Bradley Deli'. (This painting did not sell at Skinner Auction at Boston on November, 2 1991, and was not seen in person to verify signature or lack of date. A catalogue photograph under a magnifying glass reveals that the signature is at the very edge of the canvas and the date is missing or has been cut off. My guess is that because of its size and appearance, it is an early painting done in England.
40Mille Farm, Staten Island, 20 x 24 in. Signed,oil on canvas, 1835, from the Collection of Staten Island Museum, A1951.4214, Gift of Mrs. Helen Crocheran Brown. 

According to oral tradition this genre landscape depicts Andre Mille's (ca 1780 - 1868) farmstead which overlooked Prince's Bay and is now part of Wolf's Pond Park.  Mille purchased the 132 acre tract of farmland located between Amboy Road and the beach at Prince's Bay for $4,500.  In 1838 he sold the property to Andrew Hood of New York City.


*This is an updated version of Black and Feld's study in 1966 with seventeen new paintings added.

2 comments:

  1. Please contact me at mdressler at statenislandmusem dot org to add another painting to your list.

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