GILBERT CHARLES STUART (1755–1828)
Portrait of the Reverend John Thornton Kirkland, about 1816
Oil on wood door, 32 1/2 in. x 25 1/4 in.
RECORDED: George C. Mason, The Life and Works of Gilbert Stuart (1879; reprint, 1972), p. 210; Lawrence Park, Gilbert Stuart: An Illustrated Descriptive List of His Works, with an Account of His Life by John Hill Morgan and an Appreciation by Royal Cortissoz (1926), vol. I, p. 457; Mabel Munson Swan, The Athenaeum Gallery, 1827–1873 (1940), p. 71; Carrie Rebora Barrett and Ellen G. Miles, Gilbert Stuart, exhib. cat. (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2004), p. 320
EXHIBITED: Boston Atheneum, Boston, 1828, Stuart Benefit Exhibition, no. 108; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Exhibition of Portraits Painted by Gilbert Stuart, 1880, no. 240
EX COLL.: Rev. John Thornton Kirkland, D.D., until 1840; to his wife, Elizabeth Cabot (1785–1852) until 1852; to his nephew, Rev. Dr. Samuel Kirkland Lothrop, 1804–1886 (son of Kirkland’s sister, Jerusha Kirkland Lothrop); to his son, Thornton Kirkland Lothrop, 1830–1913; to his widow, Anne Maria Hooper Lothrop; to their son, William Sturgis Hooper Lothrop; to his son, Francis Bacon Lothrop (b. 1898); by descent until 2006
When the Rev. John Thornton Kirkland sat for Gilbert Stuart in 1816, Stuart was the acknowledged dean of American portrait painters and Kirkland was the fourteenth President of Harvard College, a position he held for eighteen years, from 1810 until 1828. A Unitarian minister, Kirkland was as familiar a presence in Boston society as he was in Harvard Yard. Both the President and the painter were beloved raconteurs, sought-after company in the witty and well-off social whirl that made Boston a convivial metropolis for its elite citizens. The city, in 1816, was especially buoyant. The War of 1812, with its disruptions to trade, had been much despised in the Federalist northeast, and Boston rejoiced at war’s end in 1815. Stuart’s portrait thus celebrates Rev. Kirkland at a time when the future looked bright for Boston and for Harvard.