Rufus Hathaway is one of America's most celebrated folk artists. His professional career encompassed two disciplines: medicine and art. He was born in Freetown, Rhode Island, on May 2, 1770. The young Hathaway probably left home and sought commissions for his chosen profession of portrait painting during his adolescence.
Among his earliest known paintings are the companion 1791 portraits The Reverend Caleb Turner and Mrs. Phebe King Turner and the extraordinary 1790 portrait Lady with Her Pets, now in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, a gift of Edgar William and Bernice Chrysler Garbisch.
Hathaway arrived on horseback in Duxbury, Massachusetts in the mid 1790s. Family tradition maintains that he fell in love with Judith Winsor while painting her portrait, which was commissioned by her father, Joshua Winsor, a prominent Duxbury merchant. Hathaway and Judith were married on December 10, 1795. After his marriage and in order to support himself and his wife in a more lucrative and socially acceptable fashion, Hathaway pursued the study of medicine with Dr. Isaac Winslow of Marshfield. Upon completion of his training, Hathaway returned to Duxbury and practiced medicine until his death in 1822. His artistic career continued when he entered the medical field for he continued to paint on request.
For further information on Hathaway, see Beatrix T. Rumford, [et al], American Folk Portraits: Paintings and Drawings from the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Center, (New York Graphic Society, 1981) pp. 117-118; Jean Lipman and Tom Armstrong, Editors, American Folk Painters of Three Centuries, (New York: Hudson Hills Press, 1980), pp. 35-40; as well as Sandra Brant and Elissa Cullman, Small Folk, (New York: E.P. Dutton, 1980), p. 14, no. 9; p. 103, no. 117.
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