Kentucky Artists by Martha Grassham Purcell


While Kentucky's sons and daughters have enriched the field of science by inventions and discoveries, they have not neglected the fine arts.

Among the painters, Matthew H. Jouett of Mercer County from early childhood displayed a talent by drawing sketches with a lead pencil. He became a pupil of Gilbert Stuart, who always called him "Kentucky." Jouett, on the occasion of La Fayette's visit, painted the noted general, and from that sketch painted the life-sized one that hangs in the State House. His pictures were on exhibition at the World's Fair at Chicago and compared favorably with those of the best foreign painters. It is said that Thomas S. Noble, another native of Kentucky who has won fame with his brush, exclaimed after viewing Jouett's portraits, "Rembrandt is next to God and Jouett is next to Rembrandt." The Honorable Charles Summers, who had made a study of foreign artists, on seeing one of Jouett's portraits, examined it closely and exclaimed, "What a glorious Van Dyck!" Richard Jouett Menefee made a catalogue a few years ago of three hundred and thirty-four paintings by his grandfather.

Matthew H. Jouett. Matthew H. Jouett.

In Frankfort was born another boy, Joseph H. Bush, whose talents at an early age caused him to use his mother's hearth and a piece of charcoal to sketch a profile of his father. Among his noted works are portraits of General Zachary Taylor, Benjamin W. Dudley, and Governor John Adair.

John Grimes, who lived many years in this state, is noted for a portrait, "The Country Lad," and "Suicide," a composition. Oliver Frazer first saw the light in Fayette County. He studied under Jouett and Thomas Sully, and later at Paris, Florence, Berlin, and Ludlow, where he and P.R. Healy, fellow students, became fast friends.

Though he was born in Pennsylvania, so much of the work of Louis Morgan was done in Kentucky that we class him with her artists. His "Simon Kenton" was the most prominent picture at an exhibition in the Academy of Fine Arts at Philadelphia.

As a boy, Samuel W. Price also exhibited artistic talent; among his portraits being "Old King Solomon" and one of Chief Justice George Robertson. Among his works in composition are "Caught Napping" and "Gone Up." There are also W.C. Allen, Mrs. Eliza Brown, Aaron H. Corwine, Paul Sawyier, Nevill Cain, and others who have done creditable work.

The poet-sculptor, Joel T. Hart, when only five years old modeled figures of animals in clay, molded a button out of pewter, and carved in wood. His first work of note was a bust from life of General Cassius M. Clay; among other noted men of whom he made busts were General Andrew Jackson, the Honorable John H. Crittenden, Robert Wickliffe, and the Reverend Alexander Campbell. His statue of Henry Clay now stands on the capitol grounds at Richmond. Louisville and New Orleans each ordered a statue of Clay. After that came Hart's masterpiece, "Woman Triumphant," which stood for years at Lexington, Kentucky.

The Kentucky legislature appropriated twelve hundred dollars for removing the remains of Joel T. Hart from Florence, Italy, and reinterring them at Frankfort.

Although born in California, Mrs. Mary Anderson de Navarro, an artist in another line, spent her girlhood in Louisville, so Kentuckians have ever claimed her as "Our Mary." Her brilliant stage career is known to all.