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Early American Art and Limner Portraits

 

The itinerant American limner was usually an unidentified painter who roamed the countryside in search of commissions. For the most part these artists were untrained and lived hardscrabble lives, often trading sign painting, a small portrait, interior mural for a bushel of potatoes or a few chickens. Limners often made their own pigments from the raw material they found along their way. The painters used crushed burnt walnuts, ground chicken bones, boiled eggshells, blueberries and even local clays and mud. 

One of the greatest American painters of all time, Edward Hicks, started his career as a sign painter and portrait painter..

Many nomadic painters infused a sense of whimsy and unintentional surrealism into their work. Each  limner possessed their own manner of painting. Almost all but typically accentuated the eyes of the subject and included narrative elements such as books, birds, pets, household objects. Their artworks overflow with surface ornamentation and are deliberately decorous. These fascinating paintings are highly valued by collectors. Such stylization brings to mind the illuminators who wandered around medieval Europe.
 

A List of some of greatest American Limners

Joseph Badger
Jacob Frymire
The Denison Limner
The Freake Painter
Charles Codman
Edward Hicks

 

 





 

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