Search in collections
These two portaits (see N-350.61) of Martha Barnes are among seven known likenesses of the subject believed to have been drawn by her grandson, Lucius Barnes. Born on August 1, 1819 in Middletown, Connecticut, the artist was the son of Elizur and Clarissa Bacon Barnes. At about age four, he was afflicted with a spinal disease which left him with the use of only his hands and toes. Confined to a wheelchair for most of his life, Barnes drew these portaits of his ninety-six-year-old grandmother when he was probably fifteen years old. He died two years later on September 9, 1836. It has not been determined why Barnes painted so many portraits of his grandmother, but the remains of a portrait bound inside a copy of John Cookson's book on Mrs. Barnes entitled "The Memoir of Martha Barnes, Late of Middletown, Connecticut" (1834) suggests that some of these nearly identical drawings may have served originally as frontispiece illustrations to this text. Barnes always depicted his grandmother in profile wearing wire-framed oval glasses, a long sleeve black dress, a shawl with a decorative border and a white cap held in place with a black bow. In these two portraits, Mrs. Barnes is drawn standing on a mound-like formation holding a cane in one hand and smoking a pipe. In other examples, she is drawn seated on a chair reading a book, and in one instance, reading the Bible. Martha Barnes was probably born on June 17, 1738, the second daughter of Thomas and Martha Miller Atkins of Middletown, Connecticut. On March 23, 1758, she married Jabez Barnes, a sailor. About 1780, her husband was lost at sea or died of a fever in the West Indies, leaving her with eight children to raise. She died in Middletown on October 10, 1834 at the age of ninety-six. Martha Barnes was remembered by John Cookson as a strong-willed and devoutly religious woman who was absent from Sunday church service only two half-days during the last twenty years of her life. From Paul S. D'Ambrosio and Charlotte M. Emans, "Folk Art's Many Faces: Portraits in the New York State Historical Association," Cooperstown: NYSHA, 1987, pp. 28-29.
height 8.75 in ; width 7.75 in