Southern, possibly Kentucky. Tentatively attributed to Ruth Shute Tarbell (1803-1882)
Circa 1855
Oil on canvas
34” x 44.75”

This portrait of a brother and sister are part of a small group of five known portraits by the same hand.  All of the portraits are of children in a lush landscape and appear to be of southern origin, just as in this example the children are shown under a peach tree. All of the canvases are large, ranging from 25” by 30” to this portrait which measures 34” by approximately 45”. The subjects are framed by a floral landscape that infiltrates the foreground of the painting. There is a distinctive formula for painting eyes, which were typically almond shaped with lines detailing the inner corner and the iris, and the appearance of shaded eye shadow. All are unsigned. The girls are all depicted in a red dress in the style of the 1840’s.

Some scholars have attributed these paintings to Ruth Shute Tarbell (1803-1882)), a New England artist who, along with her husband, Samuel Addison Shute (1803-1836) was an itinerant artist who painted in a distinctive style.  During her husband’s final illness and after his death she painted solo for approximately four years. Several signed portraits survive.

After her husband died, Ruth Shute married Alpha Tarbell (1804-1868) in 1840. By 1842, the couple moved to Kentucky where two paintings, portraits of her children, are known to be painted by her. These paintings share similarities with her group of New England portraits she painted in the period 1835-1840.


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