Jacob Hart Lazarus

(1822-1891)



A painter of portraits and miniatures, figures, genre and history subjects. Lazarus studied with the eminent portraitist Henry Inman, and attended the school of the National Academy of Design 1841 into 1843. He appears to have spent his entire career in New York where, according to an obituary in the New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, he "painted many ideal heads and figures, rich in color and strong in design ....He began life as a poor boy, but became wealthy through his brush." The same account describes him as "one of the most competent judges of the value of paintings in the country ...[whose] opinions were widely sought and recognized." In 1850, he was elected to Associate membership of the Academy, and from 1841 to 1865, he was a regular exhibitor at Academy annual exhibitions. His work was also shown at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and the Boston Athenaeum. The eulogy entered into Academy minutes following his death described Lazarus as a frequent and popular contributor to the Exhibitions ...rarely seen among his brother Artists ...in his later years, but kindly remembered for his many amiable traits of character.




Although he was chiefly known for his portraits, Jacob Hart Lazarus also painted miniatures, figures, and scenes from the writings of Shakespeare and Washington Irving. He studied for a time with Henry Inman, who was one of the foremost portraitists in New York. From 1841 until 1865 Lazarus contributed to the annual exhibitions of the National Academy of Design, where in 1850, he was elected an associate member. His paintings were also shown at the Boston Athenaeum and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts Lazarus's early portraits, which are softly modeled, broadly painted, and idealized, reflect the influence of his studies with Inman. His later work is more concrete, probably as a result of the growing influence of photography.

After the artist's death in New York in 1891, his widow, Mrs. Amelia B. Lazarus, and his daughter Emilie Lazarus, established a memorial fund, the income from which is awarded by the Metropolitan Museum through the American Academy in Rome to young artists for study in Europe.

A History of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, with a Chapter on the Early Institutions of Arts in New York, Winifred E. Howe, (New York, 1913).


Lazarus studied with Henry Inman in the 1840s, and his cabinet-sized portrait was probably painted in memory of that association. Although it may have been painted from life, it was not exhibited until 1848, two years after Inman's death. A daguerreotype showing a bust-length image of Inamn in the same attire but facing left may have been used as a modeel for this portrait (Art Quarterly, T. Bolton, 1940). If that is the case, Lazarus has idealized the face and shown Inman as a younger man. Broadly painted with a predominantly brown palette, the portrait is a conventional academic work. Conceived in the romantic spirit that characterizes Lazaus's early portraiture, it reflects his training with Inman. Oil on canvas, signed at lower right: J. H. Lazarus.

His self-portrait was probably painted in the 1870s, this portrait presents Lazarus as a mild-mannered, sensitive-looking man with fashionable Dundreary-whiskers. Conventional and conservative in style, it is equally restrained in color. Gray, brown, and black dominate, relieved by a faint warmth in the flesh tones and a note of blue in the cravat. The artist's wife, Amelia, who died in 1906, bequeathed the portrait to her nephew Frank Lazarus. He gave it to Samuel Riker, executor of the estate and a friend of the artist, who presented it to the museum.

© Copyright Ownership: American Paintings in the Metropolitatn Museum of Art, Vol. II., Catalogue of Works by Artists Born Between 1816 & 1845.



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