De Witt Clinton

Artist: Samuel F. B. Morse (American, Charlestown, Massachusetts 1791–1872 New York)

Date: 1826

Medium: Oil on canvas

Dimensions: 30 x 25 1/8 in. (76.2 x 63.8 cm)

Classification: Paintings

Credit Line: Rogers Fund, 1909

Accession Number: 09.18


DeWitt Clinton (1769–1828) was born in New York and graduated from Columbia University in 1786. For many years he was a political power in city, state, and national affairs. Today, he is chiefly remembered for his sponsorship of the Erie Canal, but in his day he was also noted for his interest in legal reform and public education. This picture was painted and exhibited at the National Academy of Design in 1826, when Clinton was governor of New York. Henry N. Dodge stated that it was painted for his father-in-law, Moseley I. Danforth, an engraver who planned to make and sell engravings of it. When he failed to attract sufficient subscribers, however, he abandoned the project. The background of the painting shows an overall pattern of stars bearing the monogram "C," each surrounded by a wreath. The portrait is an eclectic combination of American and French styles, with its Trumbullesque pose and French patterning and color contrasts.