This painting is in a remarkable state of preservation, thanks to it having been hidden behind a 19th-century print for over 100 years. It was rediscovered in an August 1997 episode of the Antiques Roadshow, when the then-owner brought it for inspection and evaluation.
Stacy C. Hollander, in her essay on Sheldon Peck in American Radiance, opined that "The introduction of the daguerrotype about 1840 had dramatic consequences for the art of portrait painting. The majority of Americans, who had relied on local and itinerant artisans, now had the option of a quicker and cheaper method that produced an uncannily accurate likeness. Photography ultimately sounded the death knell for the portraiture today characterized as folk art, but in its early years, the two movements competed side-by-side, and its impact can be clearly seen in Peck's work.
Sheldon Peck began painting around 1820 in his native Vermont, before moving to Western New York in 1828, and then to Illinois in 1836. His early efforts on wood panel quickly established his spartan approach to his craft - sober, strong faces with hard, angular planes unsoftened by any decorative treatment of dress or furniture, emerge from dark backgrounds in the Vermont works.
His portraiture brightened after his 1824 marriage to Harriet Corey, and subsequent move to Jordan, Onondaga County, where he farmed and continued to paint, adding such niceties as curtains and other details to his by-now brighter images. In 1836 he suddenly sold his property, and the Peck family left for Chicago, moving to Babcock's Grove (now Lombard). Here Peck once again farmed and painted, over time becoming one of the area's most influential citizens. His home was a station on the Underground Railroad, and he allowed a schoolteacher to teach in the summer kitchen of his farmhouse.
For some time it appears Peck supported his family primarily through farming, but in 1854 he set up a studio in Chicago, advertising as an ornamental painter. The 1860 census was the last to include his name, and lists his occupation as "artist." He died of pneumonia in 1868, but the house he built in 1839 descended in his family and still stands, the oldest residence in Lombard."
Accompanying this lot are copies of articles referring to the painting's discovery from Maine Antiques Digest, November 1997 and People Magazine, September 8, 1997.
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