Oil on panel oval portrait of an older gentleman, believed to be Thomas Helm of Kentucky (1785-1865). The subject is depicted in a black suit and tie and white dress shirt. Unsigned but attributed to Joseph Henry Bush (Kentucky/Natchez, 1794-1865) or possibly Washington Bogart Cooper (Tennessee, 1802-1888). Framed in a period giltwood and composition oval frame with elaborate moldings of egg and flower, oak leaf, leaf and berry clusters at corners and acanthus and shield borders. Sight – 29" H x 24" W. Framed – 34" H x 29" W. Circa 1850. Provenance: Descended through the family of Mr. Helm's daughter, Mary Montgomery Helm, who married Kentucky statesman, Joshua Fry Bell. According to oral history, the subject is Thomas Helm of Lincoln County, Kentucky. Helm was a property owner, served as Court Clerk of Lincoln County and was among the commissioners who drew up plans for the county courthouse. Artist Joseph Henry Bush was born in Mercer County Kentucky and grew up in Frankfort, Kentucky. He studied with Thomas Sully in Philadelphia but returned to settle in Louisville by 1819. He also worked in Cincinnati, New Orleans and Natchez. In the book "Lessons in Likeness: Portrait Painters in Kentucky and the Ohio River Valley, 1802-1920," The Kentucky art critic and author Estill Curtis Pennington notes that in the 1850s, Bush's portraits began to exhibit more realism than his earlier ones, and were often oval in format. Jonesboro, Tennessee-born Washington Cooper also is said to have studied briefly in Philadelphia with Thomas Sully (as well as Henry Inman). Washington Cooper moved to Nashville in about 1833. Cooper and his brother, William, who was also artist, eventually became Tennessee's most prolific portrait painters of the mid to late 19th century. Washington Cooper painted a series of portraits of the Governors of Tennessee, as well as many prominent private Southern citizens. CONDITION: Painting in good condition. Possible area of inpainting, lower right of canvas (visible under black light). Cardboard backing not removed from frame. Frame with some scattered losses.
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