James Hathaway

An Itinerant American Artist, James S. Hathaway flourished from 1830-1852; the latter decade found great success in Nantucket, the then Whaling Capitol of the world. As Nantucket’s Quaker strictures against the vanity of self-imagery waned, James S. Hathaway was the most active of two significant painters of portraiture on the island throughout most of the 1840’s. It was the height of whaling on the island, “The wealthiest town in America,” when Hathaway accepted numerous commissions from Nantucket’s pre-eminent families.

As was often the arrangement of artists and their patrons, Hathaway’s intended study in Italy was underwritten by Henry Coffin; the debt to Coffin repaid in portraits. It is believed that Hathaway left Nantucket shortly after the Great Fire of 1846. Little is known of the artist’s early life or of his later years.

Stylistic hallmarks are stiff, doll-like limbs and hands, softly rounded chins, and the studied gaze of the sitters.

by Carolyn Walsh

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