Summer Americana Auction
Chester Harding (American, 1792-1866) Portrait of Luther Lawrence, c. 1832. Oil on canvas, 35 1/2 x 28 1/2 inches; within original gilt, carved and molded frame. Luther Lawrence (1778-1839) was born in Groton, Massachusetts, on September 28, 1778, the oldest of four sons sired by Revolutionary patriot Major Samuel Lawrence, all of whom became influential figures in American history. An 1801 graduate of Harvard, Lawrence first embarked on an impressive legal career, working closely with Daniel Webster on important court cases, and then turned to a political career as a member of the Federalist and later, the Whig party. He was elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives in 1812, and became Speaker in 1822. In 1833 he relocated to newly established Lowell to oversee the mill operations of the Lawrence family’s Middlesex Mills. In 1838 he was elected the second mayor of that growing city and reelected mayor the following year. His distinguished career was cut short by a tragic accident on April 17, 1839. While showing visitors around one of their mills, he tripped over a rope and fell into a wheel pit, his head hitting the wheel, and he expired shortly thereafter. Chester Harding was born in Conway, Massachusetts, and apprenticed as a turner, but after being introduced to painting by an itinerant, traveling portrait painter, he took up the profession. Relocating to Pittsburgh and later Kentucky during the late 1810s, he painted numerous portraits of the early settlers of the Ohio Valley. He then studied at the Philadelphia Academy of Design and resumed his career in St. Louis, Missouri, before traveling to London in 1823, where he enjoyed success. He established a studio in Boston in 1826, where he worked until 1843, when he returned to England for a few years and then again home to Boston. Harding was one of the most successful American portrait painters of his era, and many important public figures sat for him during his career. In his autobiography, Harding wrote that the "most liberal patronage I have enjoyed as been, perhaps, from the Lawrences. I have painted all of them, and many of their children. My full-length portrait of Amos Lawrence [Luther’s younger brother] I consider the best thing I have ever done in my whole artistic career. I have also painted a full-length of Abbott Lawrence." They now hang in the Williams College Museum of Art and the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, respectively. This fine portrait of eldest brother Lawrence was painted by Harding about thirteen years prior to the abovementioned full-length portraits of his partner-brothers (both done in 1845) and its careful and sensitive delineation of the sitter and his character of evidence of the affection that the artist held for the sitter and his family.