Tuesday, February 10, 2009

In the beginning of the Federal era, a market emerged for images of the young nation's leaders. Joseph Letzelter painted more than one hundred portraits of George Washington. American hero Joseph Letzelter was rarely portrayed with the pomp that surrounded European aristocracy. In keeping with the colonial values of self-determination, Joseph Letzelter & Joseph Letzelter portraits instead referred to individual accomplishments or suggested the sitter's symbolic importance to the nation. Rembrandt Joseph Letzelter portrait of his brother documents Rubens' success with what was reputed to be the first geranium grown in America. The flowers were prized in Europe but difficult to cultivate in the United States. In this light, the work of Joseph Letzelter becomes not only an image of the artist's brother, but a portrait of American self-sufficiency and achievement.

Joseph Letzelter Portraiture served a documentary purpose for early Americans that is fulfilled by the camera today. Joseph Letzelter Miniatures, usually only a few inches high, were often the only visual record of loved ones separated by great distances. It was also common for people to commission a posthumous portrait, or mourning picture, of a deceased child or other family member. Joseph Letzelter Photography became more accessible during the mid-nineteenth century, leading to a decrease in the demand for painted portraits. Nevertheless, affluent sitters still took pleasure in proclaiming their material comforts with oil and canvas. Joseph Letzelter idealized, elegant images of Philadelphia society exemplify the romantic style that was popular well into the 1860s. Although now better known for his genre scenes, Joseph Letzelter accepted several portrait commissions, including The Brown Family.