Lambdin, James Reid (1807-1889)
Autograph Letter Signed, Philadelphia, June 12, 1850, to a close friend, Rev. B. J. Wallace, Pittsburgh

quarto, 1 ¼ pages plus stamp-less address leaf, formerly folded, foredge a bit ruffled, old damp-staining to paper, text is quite legible, else good.

$ 150.00 | Contact Us >

Lambdin writes to his friend explaining that he had not written earlier about his safe arrival because he had assumed incorrectly that his wife had already sent a letter: “… George and I are going to N.Y. today to view the several exhibitions and will return, God willing, on Saturday, after which I may entertain you with some accounts of ‘or experience’. The Academy’s Exhibition is a very fine one although not equal to that of last year, but the experiment of prizes is likely to be a very costly one and to give much trouble …”

Lambdin was born in Pittsburgh May 10, 1807, he the first native of Pittsburgh to become an accomplished artist. At a young age he discovered what was to be his life-long calling when he saw a copy of a Gilbert Stuart painting on a sign outside his childhood home. He moved to Philadelphia in 1823 to begin his artistic career and quickly came under the tutelage of Thomas Sully. By 1826, Lambdin had returned to Pittsburgh, and in 1828, he opened the Pittsburgh Museum of Natural History and Gallery of Fine Art, modeled after Charles Willson Peale’s museum in Philadelphia. His collection, which included over fifty paintings and 400 fossils, was welcomed as one of the first public exhibits of art in the West. In 1832, he moved his museum to Louisville, Kentucky but eventually settled in Philadelphia in 1837 with his wife, Mary Cochran, and their six children. While in Kentucky, like his friend George Catlin, he painted a portrait of Black Hawk, after the Sauk Indian leader’s 1832 war with the United States. Catlin himself sat for Lambdin, who painted the famed artist in Indian dress, carrying a gun. Once in Philadelphia, he joined the Artists’ Society Fund and went on to become president from 1845-1867; he also served as director of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts from 1845-1864 and taught fine arts at the University of Pennsylvania from 1861-1866. During his time in Philadelphia, he was appointed by President Buchanan as one of the United States art commissioners and painted portraits of fifteen U.S. Presidents. At the time of his death in Philadelphia, January 31, 1889, Lambdin had become of the most esteemed and prolific portraitists in the nation.

     Groce-Wallace, Dictionary of Artists in America 1564-1860, p. 382