Child in Blue with Dog

Child in Blue with Dog
William Matthew Prior was one of the most prolific and influential 19th-century portrait painters. He is best known today for the large number of quick, inexpensive portraits he painted and for his influence on other artists who compose what is known today as the Prior-Hamblin School.This portrait of an unidentified child standing beside a large dog is considerably more developed and complex than Prior's inexpensive painting style. The brushwork is tight and controlled, especially in the child's evenly painted face. White highlights and subtle shading in the child's face and hands lend a naturalistic appearance that falls between the abstract quality of the artist's "flat" style and the realism of his more accomplished, academic technique. The dog is depicted in an alert, upright stance, and enjoys almost equal emphasis in this composition. Prior includes many decorative yet personalizing accessories in this likeness, such as the whip and floral-decorated rattle held by the child, the coral necklace and bracelet, as well as the blue feathered hat, knife and book. He placed a dark, vine-covered column directly behind the sitter's head to direct the viewer's eye to the face, and added a darkened sky, tree trunk and leafy shrubbery to complete the outdoor setting. The child's gender is not known, as hair ringlets and dresses were common to both boys and girls at this time. However, the blue dress and the whip, considered a boy's toy, may indicate a young male child. 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. 136-138.
Physical dimensions: 
depth 2.25 in ; height 39.75 in ; width 33.25 in