By Paul Sawyier (1865- 1917)
Pastel on Canvas – Original Frame
New York or Hartford
There were remarkably few portraits painted of Mark Twain during his lifetime even though he was among the best known and most well liked figures in America. Although numerous photographs of Twain survive in private and institutional collections, the National Portrait Gallery in discussing its miniature by Eulabee Dix notes that the author “sat for very few painted portraits”. It is not known whether Twain sat for this portrait by Paul Sawyier or if it was taken from a photograph but, given the strong coloration and sense of immediacy which characterize the portrait, the former seems more likely.
It is intriguing to speculate that Twain and Sawyier met in Cincinnati in 1885. Sawyier was studying there and had established a studio and Twain returned to speak there in that year but there is no evidence to this effect. Sawyier studied and lived in New York from 1889-1890 and Twain was regularly in the city, so the opportunities for them to interact would have been available. Among possible common acquaintances was William Merritt Chase, which whom Sawyier studied at the Art Students League and with whom Twain was acquainted.
Kentucky artist Paul Sawyier was known for his portraits and landscape. He studied in Cincinnati and established a studio there in the 1880s.
He later studied with Chase in New York and Frank Duveneck at the Cincinnati Art Academy. By he had settled in Frankfort Kentucky where he lived and worked until 1913 when he returned to New York.
The portrait is in excellent condition and in what appears to be its original frame.