Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
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NEAGLE, John, portrait-painter, born in Boston, Massachusetts, 4 November, 1796; died in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 17 September, 1865. His parents were residents of Philadelphia, and at the time of his birth were temporarily visiting in Boston. He received a quarter's instruction from Peter Ancora, a drawing-teacher, and gleaned some knowledge of painting from Petticolas, a miniature-painter. He began his career as apprentice to a coach-painter, but his master was ambitious and took some lessons in painting from Bass Otis, from whom Neagle subsequently received in two months all the instruction he ever had from a professional artist. In 1818 he determined to devote himself to portrait-painting, and removed to Lexington, Kentucky, and thence to Frankford, Louisville, and New Orleans, but returned to Philadelphia two years later. His first decided success was a portrait of the Reverend Dr. Joseph Pilmore, which is in St. George's hall, Philadelphia. In 1825 he painted his celebrated full-length portrait of Patrick Lyon, the blacksmith, at his forge, which is now in the Pennsylvania academy of the fine arts, Philadelphia. The small study for it belongs to the Boston athenaeum, The University of Pennsylvania owns five of his most notable portraits, the Union league, Philadelphia, has his full-length portrait of Henry Clay, the Philadelphia library that of Dr. Thomas Parke, and the Museum of fine arts, Boston, that of Gilbert Stuart, and the New York historical society several of his Indian portraits. Other important portraits by Neagle are Mathew Carey, Reverend Dr. G. T. Bedell, Bishop Meade, of Virginia, Commander James Barron, and Judge Sharswood. This last is in the gallery of the Law association of Philadelphia. He also painted numerous dramatic portraits, including one of Edmund Kean as Richard III., which is the only portrait of that actor that was painted in this country. For several years before his death he had been unable to work, owing to a stroke of paralysis from which he never recovered. He was one of the founders and for many years president of the Artist fund society of Philadelphia, and was a man of close observation and remarkable individuality. As a painter he was a powerful colorist, a skilful delineator of character, and a vigorous draughtsman, and unquestionably stands second only to Gilbert Stuart among American portrait-painters. In 1820 he married a daughter of Thomas Sully.
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