James Reid Lambdin

(1807 - 1889)

Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, James Reid Lambdin gained renown as a portrait painter, professor, and leader in the arts community. At a young age he discovered what was to be his life-long calling when he saw a copy of a Gilbert Stuart painting on a sign outside his childhood home. He moved to Philadelphia in 1823, to begin his artistic career and quickly came under the tutelage of Thomas Sully. By 1826, Lambdin had returned to Pittsburgh, and in 1828, he opened the Pittsburgh Museum of Natural History and Gallery of Fine Art, modeled after Charles Willson Peale’s museum in Philadelphia. His collection, which included over fifty paintings and 400 fossils, was welcomed as one of the first public exhibits of art in the West. In 1832, he moved his museum to Louisville, Kentucky but eventually settled in Philadelphia in 1837, with his wife, Mary Cochran, and their six children. Once in Philadelphia, he joined the Artists’ Society Fund and went on to become president from 1845-1867; he also served as director of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts from 1845-1864, and taught fine arts at the University of Pennsylvania from 1861-1866. During his time in Philadelphia, he was appointed by President Buchanan as one of the United States art commissioners and painted portraits of fifteen U.S. Presidents. At the time of his death in 1889, Lambdin had become of the most esteemed and prolific portraitists in the nation. His son, George Cochran Lambdin was born in Pittsburgh in 1830, a well known portrait painter.

View painter's work: James Reid Lambdin (1807-1889)

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