Date of Degree
PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)
This thesis serves as the first in-depth study of the works of Jacksonian-era portraitist Ralph E.W. Earl (1788-1838). Earl's multi-faceted contributions to the development of culture in Nashville, Tennessee complimented his work in formation of the public image of Andrew Jackson. As a young man from New England, Earl painted portraits as an itinerant artist, eventually making enough money to travel to England. He lived and worked in England for five years before spending a year in Paris and returning to the United States in 1816. Determined to paint the heroes of the Battle of New Orleans, Earl traveled to Nashville, Tennessee. He met with great success there and found a clear niche painting, thereafter settling in the up-and-coming city. Earl painted Jackson's portrait dozens of times in Tennessee and then in Washington during Jackson's presidency.
The focus of this thesis is multifaceted. The story of American art is enriched with the telling of Earl's endeavors, and Earl's career functions as a unique case-study in early American art. Most importantly, Earl's portraits of Jackson helped fashion an acceptable image of the nation's seventh president. Furthermore, Earl's museum and printmaking endeavors helped expand early American culture in unique ways. This thesis contributes to the story of American art, history, and culture, by revealing the multi-faceted career of a forgotten American cultural hero.
Copyright 2010 Rachel E. Stephens
Stephens, Rachel Elizabeth. "America's portraitist: Ralph E.W. Earl and the imaging of the Jacksonian era." dissertation, University of Iowa, 2010.