19th Century Portrait Oil Painting Attributed to Washington Bogart Cooper – Possible Portrait of Nashville, TN founder Dr. Felix Robertson
A large 19th Century Portrait Oil Painting attributed to renowned Tennessee portrait artist Washington Bogart Cooper (Tennessee, September 18, 1802 – March 30, 1888) | Oil on canvas | Housed in a beautiful antique ornate gold gilded gesso wood fram
A large 19th Century Portrait Oil Painting attributed to renowned Tennessee portrait artist Washington Bogart Cooper (Tennessee, September 18, 1802 – March 30, 1888) | Oil on canvas | Housed in a beautiful antique ornate gold gilded gesso wood frame | Dimensions: Canvas only: 35.25″ x 28.5;” with frame: 50.5″ x 41.5″ x 3.25″ | Condition: several spots of a paper-like substance appear to have adhered to the varnish layer in the backgrounds above the subject’s head and in the right quadrant background, most like reversible with cleaning. Light craquelure. Frame has been repaired in places
Provenance: while the identity of the person depicted in this portrait is not known with certainty, the painting has descended through and since the 19th century owned by a longtime Nashville family with ties to the family of Confederate General Benjamin Franklin Cheatham and Nashville founder James Robertson. The subject bears a strong resemblance to Felix Robertson, purportedly the first white male child born in Nashville, and later mayor of Nashville, 1818-1819 and 1827-1828).
About the Artist: Washington Bogart Cooper (Tennessee, September 18, 1802 – March 30, 1888) was a famed American portrait painter, sometimes known as “the man of a thousand portraits”.
Washington Bogart Cooper was born near Jonesborough, Tennessee, on September 18, 1802, one of nine children. A brother, William Brown Cooper (1811–1890), also became a painter. As a child, he lived near Carthage, Tennessee and Shelbyville, Tennessee. He studied art with Ralph Eleaser Whiteside Earl in Murfreesboro and settled in Nashville in 1830. In 1831, he went to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to study art with Thomas Sully and Henry Inman, and returned to Nashville in 1832.
From 1837 to 1848, Cooper averaged thirty-five portraits a year. His portraits of Tennessee governors, commissioned by the Tennessee Historical Society, can be seen in the Tennessee State Capitol and the Tennessee State Museum in Nashville. He also did portraits for the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, and the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Tennessee, And a portrait of Alexander Campbell. The Tennessee State Museum holds fifty of his portraits. His account book can be found on microfilm in the Tennessee State Library and Archives. Some of his portraits are in Natchez, Mississippi, where he made a trip with his brother.
In 1839, Cooper married Ann Litton from Dublin, Ireland. The couple had four children: James (1840–1843), James Litton (1844–1924), Kate (1846–1919), and Joseph Litton (1849–1936). A portrait of the three younger children is displayed in the Tennessee State Museum. The artist’s family has a portrait that Cooper painted of his wife in about 1842. It is unlike his typical work, in that it shows the subject in profile, reading. It is considered to resemble Jean-Honoré Fragonard’s A Young Girl Reading.
Washington Cooper died of pneumonia on March 30, 1888, at the age of eighty-six, and he is buried in the Mount Olivet Cemetery in Nashville.
About the Subject: Felix Robertson (1781–1865) was an American pioneer, physician and Jeffersonian Republican politician. He served twice as the Mayor of Nashville, Tennessee from 1818 to 1819 as well as from 1827 to 1829.
Felix Robertson was born on January 11, 1781 at the fort Freeland’s Station, which was later commemorated as a neighborhood of Nashville. He was born to General James Robertson and his wife Charlotte Reeves Robertson, who had arrived with the first large group of settlers in Middle Tennessee. He was the first known white child born in the settlement now called Nashville, while his father is regarded as the “Father of Tennessee” in history books.
Robertson studied medicine under the direction of Benjamin Rush at the University of Pennsylvania, where he received his M.D. degree in 1806. He went on to practice medicine in Nashville for forty years. He served as Mayor of Nashville from 1818 to 1819 as well as from 1827–1829. He later took part in Robertson’s Colony with his cousin Sterling C. Robertson, but they returned to Tennessee. He delivered a speech at the 26th annual meeting of the Tennessee Medical Society detailing the early physicians and medical practices in the early settlement of Nashville. He went on to work as a professor of medicine at the Old University of Nashville. He served as director of Medical Society of Tennessee from 1834 through 1840 and again in 1853 for two years. He was a close friend and personal doctor of President Andrew Jackson (1767-1845). He worked on his 1828 presidential campaign.
He married Lydia Waters on October 9, 1808. They had five sons, James Waters, Benjamin, John E. Beck, Felix (died as infant), and Felix Randolph, and two daughters, Elizabeth, Elnora Reeves. He died on July 10, 1865, and he is buried in the Nashville City Cemetery. His tombstone is inscribed with the epitaph “First white child born in settlement now called Nashville; Distinguished as a physician; Foremost as citizen.”
His son, James Waters Robertson (1812-1836), went to Texas from Louisiana, took part in the Siege of Bexar during the Texas revolution and later served in the Alamo garrison. He died in the Battle of the Alamo on March 6, 1836.
Above Biographies are from Wikipedia.
Artist / Maker
Washington Bogart Cooper
XL (greater than 40 in.)
Classical, Folk Art
Portrait of a Gentleman