James Sullivan Lincoln
1811 - 1888
Born in Massachusetts, James Sullivan Lincoln was the oldest of six siblings. While in his teens, he became an orphan and became an apprentice to an engraving firm in Providence, RI. While there, Lincoln’s artistic talents were recognized, and he was apprenticed to C. T. Hinckley, a portraitist. In 1829, Lincoln began to establish himself as an artist in his own right, opening a studio at Market Square.
Lincoln began receiving commissions and was accepted and firmly established in the art community for his talent and ability to capture a likeness. Not only was he able to paint precisely, a talent learned while he was learning engraving, but he was noted for the charm and life given to the sitters. This is especially evident in his paintings of women and children.
Lincoln not only painted familial scenes, but also portraits of leading men and women of the 19th century. These portraits were popular because of Lincoln’s ability to capture the office and the person. Lincoln would paint portraits with some items that belonged to the sitter, creating a more personal painting. His skill as an artist continued to shine through his portraits, as he showed a strong understanding of colors and tones.
When photography entered the world, Lincoln embraced the new technology. He realized the importance of photography, even if he did not see it as equal to painted portraits. He began taking portraits, often using more artistic and pleasing poses than was conventional, and colored photographs. Even with this new technology, Lincoln’s artistry showed through. He consistently remained popular for his painted portraits, which helped capture the makers of history in Providence. With a 60 year-long career and incredible talent, James Sullivan Lincoln was dubbed the “Father of Rhode Island Art” and named the first president of the Providence Art Club.