J. Henry Brown

(1818 - 1891)


Born at Lancaster, Pa., as an artist entirely self-taught. He began his professional career in Philadelphia in 1845, and since resided in that city, painting miniature-portraits, on ivory and canvas of many persons of high social and professional position in Philadelphia and throughout the country. In his particular branch of art he was very successful, and his work highly praised and prized. Among his sitters; Abraham Lincoln, James Buchanan, John M. Read, Supreme Judge of Pennsylvania, Commodore Stockton, and Stonewall Jackson. The miniature of President Lincoln was painted for Judge Read, and placed in the possession of Mrs. Lincoln. Of the two portraits of President Buchanan, one belongs to his niece, Miss Harriet Lane (now Mrs. Henry E. Johnston of Baltimore), the other to the Rev. E. Y. Buchanan.

Mr. Brown was elected a member of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in 1862. He received a medal and diploma for ivory miniatures at the Centennial Exhibition of 1876.

Artists of the Nineteenth Century & their Works. Clara Erskine Clement & Laurence Hutton, 1879.


John Henry Brown, Self-Portrait ca.1846After two years as a clerk in the Recorder's office of Lancaster County, Brown studied pinting from 1836 to 1839 with Arthur Armstrong, a fine-art, sign, and "fancy" painter. At the age of twenty-one, he set up his own business in Lancaster, in competition with his teacher, who also taught himself miniatures exclusively. In 1845 he married Adaline Peters and settled in Philadelphia. Brown painted many prominent people, combining the look of the new photographic process with the colors and composition of oil painting, often basing his portraits upon daguerreotypes and, later, ambrotypes. He exhibited frequently at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and at the Artists' Fund Society until 1864. In 1864 he joined the photography practice of Frederick August Weneroth and W. Curtis Taylor, which became the firm of Wenderoth, Taylor & Brown. He tinted photographs and provided whatever other painting skills were needed to fulfill the public demand for colored images. Brown imitated photography so closely that his miniatures became virtually indistinguishable from hand-colored photographs. In painting Lincoln's portrait in 1860, he relied partly on ambrotypes. He is one of the few miniaturists who continued to work throughout the century, unlike most of his contemporaries who were driven out of business by photography. Brown achieved considerable success through its exact replication. At the time of the nation's centinnial, a revival of interest in portrait miniatures allowed Brown to rededicate himself to his genre; he exhibited at the National Academy of Design in New York, 1875 and received a medal for his miniature at the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia, 1876.

[J. Henry Brown's journal, commenced 1850, and diary, commenced in 1844.]
div