Joseph Wood (American, 17781830)
Watercolor on ivory; 4 x 3 in. (10.2 x 7.6 cm)
Gift of Mrs. John R. Wadleigh, 1993 (1993.283)
A painter of miniatures and cabinet-sized portraits, as well as an engraver, Wood moved from upstate New York to the city at the age of fifteen and apprenticed to a silversmith. He copied miniature portraits that had been left in the shop for framing and these attracted the attention of John Wesley Jarvis, who took Wood into a highly lucrative partnership. Wood moved to Philadelphia in 1813 and later worked in Baltimore and Washington, D.C., pleasing clients in each city with his meticulously executed portraits. He used gum arabic quite liberally, a medium that gave strong contrast and opacity to his watercolor. His handsome self-portrait epitomizes his most captivating work: a sharply defined, realistic likeness with brilliantly rendered coiffure, against a background expertly shaded to approximate sky.