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John Smibert

Smibert or Smybert, John (both: smĪˈbərt) [key], 1688–1751, American portrait painter, b. Scotland, the first skillful painter in New England. After his apprenticeship to an Edinburgh house painter, he went to London. There he studied art, made a trip to Italy, then returned to London, where he had small success. He emigrated (1729) to America with Dean (later Bishop) Berkeley, who had persuaded him to teach art at his college in Bermuda, though the plan did not materialize. After a stay in Newport, R.I., Smibert went to Boston. There in 1730 he assembled probably the first art show in America. He married an heiress, became a successful portrait painter, and won considerable social standing. Among his works are portraits of Judge Edmund Quincy (Mus. of Fine Arts, Boston) and Peter Faneuil (Mass. Historical Society, Boston). Harvard, Bowdoin, and other institutions house examples of his formal portraiture. Yale owns the first important portrait group painted in America, Smibert's Bishop Berkeley and His Entourage (1731), including a self-portrait. The artist's influence is evident in the work of such early Americans as Copley, Washington Allston, and John Trumbull.

See study by H. Foote (1950, repr. 1969).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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