Descended from farmers in Worcester County, Massachusetts, Earl was a highly trained portraitist who tempered his style to suit his rural subjects. After seven years of study in London, Earl became an itinerant artist in Connecticut and Vermont; he devised a manner of painting that betrayed his knowledge of fashionable English portraiture while appealing to his clients’ restrained tastes and pious values. A key example is this complex group portrait of Chloe Burrall Smith (1757–1810) and her five children, a grand and stylish work executed in Bennington, Vermont, in a simple technique and a vivid palette of greens and reds.
Signature: [at lower left]: Ralph Earl pinxit 1798
Mr. and Mrs. Noah Smith, Milton, Vermont, until 1812; their daughter, Mrs. Eliza Smith Huntington, Vergennes, Vermont; her daughter, Ann Eliza Huntington, Vergennes, Vermont, until 1876; her cousin, Mrs. Ruth Keller Goss, died 1940; her daughter, Mrs. J. Warren (Ruth Goss) Barnes, Troy, New York and Mrs. Barnes's son, Wentworth H. Barnes, Salisbury, Connecticut, until Dec. 1957; with Hirschl & Adler Galleries, New York, Dec. 1957–Jan. 1958; Edgar William and Bernice Chrysler Garbisch, Cambridge, Maryland, Jan. 1958–1964