Sarah Goodridge

(5 February 1788 - 28 December 1853)


Goodridge was born in Templeton, Massachusetts, the sixth child and third daughter of Ebenezer Goodridge and his wife Beulah Childs. At an early age, she began drawing and showed an aptitude for art. Women's educational opportunities were limited at the time and where Goodridge lived, so she was essentially a self-taught artist.[according to whom?]

In 1820, she went to live with her sister Eliza in Boston and began receiving lessons and painting miniature portraits of exceptional quality. Her work continued to improve and she earned enough from commissions to support herself and her family for several decades. Her paintings were exhibited in Boston and Washington D.C.. After her eyesight failed in 1851, she retired from painting and settled in Reading, Massachusetts.

Among Goodridge's most interesting and personal works is a miniature portrait of her own bared breasts, entitled "Beauty Revealed", now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Executed in 1828, it was presented by the artist to her close friend, correspondent, and occasional subject, Daniel Webster. The work was included in the retrospective, "The Philippe de Montebello Years: Curators Celebrate Three Decades of Acquisitions."

"Beauty Revealed" was the inspiration for a miniature painted by the fictional heroine of Blindspot: A Novel (New York, 2008), by Jane Kamensky and Jill Lepore.

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Sarah Goodridge (Also Known as: Sarah Goodbridge, Sarah Goodrich) was still a young girl when she developed an interest in drawing. Growing up on a farm, with little money to buy paper, she drew her earliest pictures on the sanded kitchen floor with a stick or on sheets of peeled birch bark with a pin. When she was seventeen, Goodridge moved into the household of her eldest brother and his family in Milton, Massachusetts. Although she had a few drawing lessons there, she was largely self-taught. After going to live with her sister and brother-in-law in Boston, she studied briefly with a miniature painter.

Opening her own studio in Boston in 1820, Goodrige went on to become one of the most prolific miniature painters in the city for the next thirty years. In 1820 she made the acquaintance of the noted portrait painter Gilbert Stuart, which proved to be a turning point in her career. Taken to Goodridge's studio by a mutual friend, Stuart was impressed with her work and invited her to visit his own studio. She became a frequent visitor, bringing along her unfinished pictures and benefiting immensely from his comments about them. In 1825 Goodridge painted a miniature of Stuart, which he praised as "the most lifelike of anything ever painted of him in this country."

Goodridge's career flowered in the 1820s, leading to commissions to paint U.S. Senator Daniel Webster, General Henry Lee, and other notable figures. Between 1827 and 1835, she had five exhibitions at the Boston Atheneum. A sought-after miniaturist in the city, she often turned out as many as three portraits a week. Most of her miniatures were done in watercolor on ivory. Goodridge's success enabled her to support her ailing mother for eleven years and to raise an orphaned niece. In 1850 Goodridge began to lose her eyesight and the following year gave up painting.

National Museum of American Art (New York and Washington D.C.: MacMillan Digital in cooperation with the National Museum of American Art, 1996)
© Copyright and Ownership: Smithsonian American Art Museum Collection




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