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Judge Samuel Livermore

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Judge Samuel Livermore

oil on panel
4 in. x 3 1/8 in. (10.16 cm x 7.94 cm)
Currier Funds, 1946.4

John Trumbull

A governor's son and onetime aide-de-camp to George Washington, John Trumbull is best known for his scenes of the American Revolution. Born to Jonathan and Faith Trumbull in Lebanon, Connecticut, the artist attended Harvard College before joining the Continental Army in 1775. His skills as a draftsman and mapmaker brought him to the attention of Washington, who employed Trumbull as his second aide-de-camp for a period of several weeks. Later, Trumbull rose to the rank of major and then colonel, serving in Boston, New York State, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island.

Resigning from the army in 1777, Trumbull turned to his boyhood avocation of drawing and painting. By the following year, he had taken the old Boston studio of John Smibert (1688-1751) and had begun to paint portraits of family and friends. In 1780 Trumbull went to England to study with Benjamin West (1738-1820); there he was arrested and imprisoned as a spy, but soon released. Deported, Trumbull returned to Connecticut, but was back in West's studio by 1784. Inspired by West's paintings of modern history, Trumbull conceived his own series of scenes based on the events of the revolution. Much of Trumbull's subsequent fame rested on these paintings, which the artist produced in several versions. Elected vice president, then president of the American Academy of Fine Arts in New York, Trumbull reached the height of his career in 1817, when Congress commissioned four revolutionary scenes for the Rotunda of the new Capitol. Later in life, the artist struck a deal with Yale University whereby he would receive a lifetime annuity in exchange for his paintings. Settled in New Haven, the artist published his well-known autobiography two years before his death in 1843.

Painted in oil on panel instead of the watercolor on ivory that was the norm for miniatures of this period, the Currier's Judge Samuel Livermore is a compelling likeness of one of New Hampshire's first and most distinguished congressmen. According to an early inscription on the verso, possibly in the artist's hand, the portrait was painted in Philadelphia in 1792, when Livermore was serving in the United States House of Representatives. Depicted bust-length against a neutral background, Livermore appears in three-quarters view, his gaze directed to the right. His expression is both serious and intelligent, yet disheveled hair and jowly features lend an avuncular quality that softens his countenance. Such naturalism as well as Trumbull's freedom of execution suggest that this portrait is, in all probability, a life study.

Judge Samuel Livermore was made in preparation for Trumbull's unexecuted history painting Inauguration of the President. Like Trumbull's Declaration of Independence (first version 1787-1820, Yale University Art Gallery), this work was planned as a large multifigure composition featuring persons who were present at the inauguration of George Washington in 1789. Continuing a practice he had started with the Declaration, Trumbull began collecting portraits for the Inauguration in 1792. Nothing came of the project, however, and the artist eventually abandoned it. Years later, the bulk of his portrait studies were given to Yale as part of Trumbull's annuity agreement; however, by that time the Currier Livermore had already passed out of his hands. The portrait of Livermore now at Yale is a copy and is somewhat more idealized than the first version.

Trumbull's original study is believed to have returned to the family of Samuel Livermore sometime about 1824. In his 1892 History of the Centennial of the Inauguration of Washington, Clarence Winthrop Bowen relates an account given to him by Samuel Livermore's grandson, Arthur Livermore Jr. According to the story, the senior Arthur Livermore, also a United States congressman, had met Trumbull in Washington while the latter was working on his Rotunda paintings. The two men had a friendly exchange, and Livermore was invited to visit Trumbull in Philadelphia, where the artist had something that "would interest and please him." Livermore duly called

and there he saw a considerable number of portraits painted upon a board, among which he recognized that of his father, Samuel Livermore, and was much struck by the likeness, which he ever afterward averred was perfect. Mr. Trumbull said that he had intended to paint the inauguration of Washington, and had for that purpose painted the portraits of a number of person partaking in the sceneā€¦ But he added that various impediments had delayed the execution of his plan till he had become too old for it, and in the end expressed his willingness to part with the portraits. The price was finally agreed on, and this one was afterward sawed from the board and sent.(1)

Samuel Livermore was born in Waltham, Massachusetts, in 1732. Following his graduation from Nassau Hall (now Princeton University), Livermore studied law in Waltham and was admitted to the bar in 1756. He soon moved to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, where he lived and worked until settling permanently in the New Hampshire town of Holderness in 1774.

Livermore's legal attainments paved the way for his appointment to the position of king's attorney in 1769. With the outbreak of the revolution, he became attorney general of New Hampshire and was elected a delegate to the Continental Congress. For several years during the 1780s, Livermore also served as chief justice of the New Hampshire Supreme Court. Made a member of the State Constitutional Convention in 1788, Livermore was instrumental in persuading fellow delegates to bring New Hampshire into the fold as the ninth and final state required to ratify the federal constitution. Livermore's later career saw his election to the United States House of Representatives and subsequently the Senate, whose presidency he held for two sessions. Retiring from politics in 1801, Livermore returned to Holderness, where he died in 1803.

Judge Samuel Livermore remained in family hands until 1946, when it was obtained by an art gallery in New York and subsequently purchased by the Currier Museum of Art.



1. Arthur Livermore Jr., quoted in Clarence Winthrop Bowen, The History of the Centennial of the Inauguration of Washington, transcript of pp. 498-499 in object file, Currier Museum of Art.


Helen A. Cooper. John Trumbull: The Hand and Spirit of a Painter. Ex. cat. Yale University Art Gallery, 1982.

Irma B. Jaffe. John Trumbull: Patriot-Artist of the American Revolution. Boston: New York Graphic Society, 1975.

John Trumbull. The Autobiography of Colonel John Trumbull, Patriot-Artist, 1756-1843. Edited by Theodore Sizer. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1953.

Malcolm Vaughan. "A Fine Miniature by Trumbull." American Collector XVI, no. 12A (January 1947): 5, 21.

1956 Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, CT, "John Trumbull: Painter-Patriot." Oct. 10 - Nov. 25, no. 72.

1989 National Portrait Gallery, Washington, DC, "The First Federal Congress, 1789-1791." March 2 - July 23.

1993 Currier Gallery of Art, Manchester, NH, "Celebrate America! Three Centuries of American Art from the Currier." June 19 - Aug. 29.

2005 Currier Museum of Art, Manchester, NH, "Faces & Figures: Two Centuries of Portraiture." Jan. 28 - March 3.

The Livermore Family
Newhouse Galleries, Inc.
Purchased by Currier Gallery of Art, 1946

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