Another Pittsburgh Painter


Looking through old Pittsburgh newspapers on microfilm I came across an ad for a portrait painter named James Lambdin. I had never heard of Lambdin, but the mention of his being a pupil of Thomas Sully in the ad caught my attention. I should have just Googled images, but not ever hearing of Lambdin I mistakenly assumed he was an artist lost to history. I headed to the census records at the library and on my way to the third floor decided to stop and search the auction records as well as catolog for books about Sully, which I hoped would mention Lambdin.

Both produced results that were suprisingly fruitful to me. I didn’t need to search census records to see when Lambdin moved to Pittsburgh–he was born here in 1807. I guess amateur historians like myself mistakenly assume most of the people and things, at least as they relate to a European cultural tradition, in early Pittsburgh came from Baltimore or Philadelphia. The newspaper ad was from 1824, not long before Lambdin left Pittsburgh. Lambdin headed South for Louisville and then trading time between Pittsburgh and Mobile, Alabama.

Lambdin then moved to Philadelphia (which may have had more imports like Lambdin from Pittsburgh than we often assume) where he spent most of the remainder of his life.

Its curious that Lambdin studied in Philadelphia under Thomas Sully from 1823-25 and yet placed the ad in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in 1824. Also his son, George Cochran Lambdin, also a noted artist, was born in Pittsburgh in 1830. Lambdin traveled to Washington and painted many portraits including presidents. he was a professor of fine arts at the University of Pennsylvania and an officer at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts.

William Russell Smith was a student of Lambdin.

Apparently the Carnegie Museum of Art has two works by James Lambdin, a portrait of Henry Clay and one of Benjamin Darlington. I am not sure whether these works are not on display or I have failed to notice them.

About Art After X

With the death of President Kennedy in 1963, America changed. As hard as it is to minimize that sentiment, the effect of Dallas was even greater. The same year saw the merging of the Dallas Museum for Contemporary Arts, which had been central to the art scene, and the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts. Douglas MacAgy, then the director of DMCA, not only opposed the merger, but also declined to directorship of the combined museum. The regionalist movement which had been strong for decades, was giving way to more of an interest in what was going on nationally, and internationally. Like it or not, Dallas was on the national stage. When the Kennedy’s arrived in Fort Worth, local collectors had decorated a hotel room with internationally-renowned works. While the president and his wife learned a great deal about the ability of Texans to collect major art, there was little they could glean about the local scene in this era-defining city. With this in mind, we have begun a project to look not back at the art scene in Dallas, but foreword from 1963. We are interviewing gallery owners, curators and others involved in the art scene then, but this will be a story told mostly through interviews with artists active in the city from that point into the 1980s. The result will be a book with a video component. We hope you will join us in our journey. The hashtag for the project is #artafterx and the url artafterx.com will point to the latest updates on this weblog.

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