Chester Harding (painter)

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Chester Harding, c. 1860–1865

Chester Harding (September 1, 1792 – April 1, 1866) was an American portrait painter.


Harding was born at Conway, Massachusetts. Brought up in the wilderness of New York state, he was a lad of robust physique, standing over 6 feet 3 inches. His family removed to Caledonia, New York, when he was fourteen years old, and he was early thrown upon his own resources for support, his initial trade being that of a turner. In the War of 1812, he marched as a drummer with the militia to the St Lawrence. He became subsequently chairmaker, peddler, inn-keeper, and house-painter, painting signs in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He worked at this latter occupation a year, when acquaintance with a traveling portrait painter led him to attempt that art. Having succeeded in producing a crude portrait of his wife, he devoted himself enthusiastically to the profession.

He painted several other portraits at Pittsburg, and then went to Paris, Kentucky, where he finished 100 portraits in six months at $25 each. He made enough money to take him to the schools at the Philadelphia Academy of Design. He then established himself in St. Louis, and eventually went on the road as an itinerant portrait painter. In August 1823, he went to England and set up a studio in London, and spent three years in studying and painting. He met with great success, painting royalty and the nobility, and, despite the lackings of an early education and social experience, he became a favorite in all circles.

Harding's painting of James Madison (1829)

On his return to the United States in 1826, he settled in Boston, initially residing in Beacon Hill, Boston, Massachusetts, in what became known as the Chester Harding House, a National Historic Landmark which now houses the Boston Bar Association. He stayed there until 1830. In 1843, he went to England again, and afterward resided in Springfield, Massachusetts, spending his winters frequently in St. Louis or in some of the southern cities. In 1828 he was elected into the National Academy of Design as an Honorary Academician.

He painted portraits of many of the prominent men and women of his time. Among the people who sat for him were James Madison, James Monroe, John Quincy Adams, John Marshall, Nicholas Brown, Jr., Dudley Leavitt Pickman, Charles Carroll, William Wirt, Henry Clay, John C. Calhoun, Washington Allston, the Dukes of Norfolk, Hamilton, and Sussex, Samuel Rogers, and Sir Archibald Allison. Harding is the only known painter who painted Daniel Boone from life.[1] His last work was a portrait of Gen. William T. Sherman. His portrait of Daniel Webster went to the Bar Association of New York, and that of John Randolph to the Corcoran Gallery at Washington, D.C.

Chester Harding died in Boston on April 1, 1866 and is buried in Springfield Cemetery in Springfield.[2]

He wrote My Egotistography, which was privately printed.

See also


  1. ^ "Brown University Portrait Collection". Retrieved 2015-12-20.
  2. ^ Chester Harding at Find a Grave


Further reading

  • Leah Lipton. "The Boston Artists' Association, 1841–1851." American Art Journal, Vol. 15, No. 4 (Autumn, 1983), pp. 45–57.

Image gallery

External links

  • WorldCat
  • Worcester Art Museum. Biography of Harding.
  • Chester Harding,” The Atlantic Monthly, Vol. XIX, January, 1867, No, CXI, pp. 485–488 at Visited 20 December 2010.
  • Wikisource-logo.svg "Harding, Chester" . New International Encyclopedia. 1905.
  • Wikisource-logo.svg "Harding, Chester" . Encyclopedia Americana. 1920.
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