Thomas Sully

Thomas Sully was a well-known American (English-born) painter, mostly of portraits.

Thomas Sully was born in England but brought to America as a child, received early training both as a miniaturist and painter in oils. Determined to improve his technique, he returned to England in 1809 to study with Benjamin West. However it was the glamorous portraits of British artist Thomas Lawrence, with their bravura brushwork and lush color, that impressed him most and that he rapidly learned to emulate. Returning to America, he eventually settled in Philadelphia, where his stylish and elegant portraits were soon much in demand among the city’s elite. Although Sully’s sitters included many prominent men of the day—among them Andrew Jackson and the Marquis de Lafayette—he was best known for his portraits of women. According to one admiring critic, “His female portraitures are oftentimes poems, full of grace and tenderness,” with eyes that “are liquid enough and clear enough to satisfy even a husband—or a lover.”