Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
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OTIS, Bass, artist, born in New England in 1784; died in Philadelphia, 3 November, 1861. As a youth he was apprenticed to a scythe-maker, and his only known composition is a large picture of the interior of a smithy, which was first exhibited at the Pennsylvania Leadenly of the fine arts in 1819, and presented by the artists to that institution, where it now is. It is hard in its technique, but the grouping and management of light are nicely treated. It is not known from whom Mr. Otis gleaned any instruction in art, but in 1808 he was painting portraits in New York, and in 181.2 he had settled as a portrait-painter in Philadelphia. His portrait of President Jefferson was engraved for Delaplaine's" Portrait Gallery," and in the exhibition of original historical portraits at the Pennsylvania academy of the fine arts in 1887-'8 there were a dozen of his works, including likenesses of Alexander Lawson, the engraver, John Neagle, the painter, and Dr. Philip Syng Physick, which last Otis reproduced in a crude mezzotint engraving. A portrait of himself, which he painted shortly before his death, is a fine piece of work. In 1815 Otis invented the perspective protractor, which was well received by many of his co-workers, and he produced what is said to be the earliest lithograph that was made in the United States. It appeared in the " Analectic Magazine" for July, 1819. Otis made the design upon a stone that was brought from Munich, and did the printing himself. The print has little resemblance to the modern lithograph, the lines being incised or corroded, and therefore it has more the character of a coarse etching, but it is interesting in the history of art.
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