Thomas Le Clear

(17 March 1818 - 26 November 1882)



Le Clear sold his first paintings, copies of a painting of Saint Matthew, at the age of 12. He began to follow art professionally before he had had any instruction. He continued to teach himself by studying the painting by other artists. When he was fourteen, in 1832, he moved to London, Canada, with his father. He painted portraits there for a time. He painted portraits in Elmira, and in Rochester, before moving to New York City in 1839, when he was twenty-one. There he studied for several years under Henry Inman. From 1844 to 1860, he resided in Buffalo, where he was a founding member of the Buffalo Fine Arts Academy. He returned to New York City in the early 1860s, and was elected a National Academician in 1863.

Among his compositions are:
“The Reprimand,”
“Marble Players,” and
“Itinerants” (1862).
Of his numerous portraits, one of the best is that of George Bancroft, at the Century Club, New York; other excellent portraits are those of:
William Cullen Bryant
Bayard Taylor
Millard Fillmore
Edwin Booth as Hamlet.
He's also noted for his genre scenes, including Interior with Portraits.

Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography, Appletons' cyclopædia of American biography" Vol. III., 1888.



Thomas Le Clear, N. A. Born in Owego, N. Y., 1818. He displayed a talent for art as a child, and sold ideal heads painted on rough boards to his neighbors before reaching his teens. In 1832, he was taken by his family to London, Canada, where he painted portraits, but met with indifferent success. He settled in New York in 1839, and (with the exception of a few years passed in Buffalo) his professional life has been spent in that city. He was made a member of the National Academy in 1863. Among his earlier works are the"
"Marble-Players" (which belonged to the Art Union), the
"Itinerant " (in the National Academy of 1862), and his
"Young America."
He has painted the portrait of:
Edwin Booth as Hamlet
Gifford and McEntee the artists
Daniel R. Dickinson
President Fillmore
Dr. Vinton (1870)
Bayard Taylor
E. W. Stoughton (1877)
Parke Godwin (at the National Academy, 1877, and the Paris Exposition of 1878)
George Bancroft (in the Century Club)
William Page (in the Corcoran Gallery, Washington).

He exhibits occasionally at the Royal Academy, London, and the journals of that city have spoken well of his works, saying that they are among the best in the Academy, fine in color, graceful, pleasing in tone, with great individuality, a "sense of oneness, caused by a subtle rendering of all the parts in their just relation one with another,'' and that "they exhibited in a marked degree many of the rare qualities of great portraiture."

"To the native facility for imitation, Le Clear now unites remarkable power of characterization, a peculiar skill in color, and minute authenticity in the reproduction of latent, as well as superficial personal traits. In some cases his tints are admirably true to nature, and his modeling of the head strong and characteristic." -- Tuckerman's Catalog of the Artists.

"The quiet, subdued tones of Le Clear's work in middle tint, its fine finish, and the grave dignity of the head, charm every beholder, so as to make him understand why this noble portrait elicited such marked praise when exhibited in the British Royal Academy. Le Clear is fortunate in being so well represented in the Corcoran Gallery, alongside of some of the best heads of Stuart, Harding, and Healy." -- Art Journal, July, 1878.

Artists of the Nineteenth Century, their Works, Biographical Sketches, By Clara Erskine Clement and Laurence Hutton, 1879.



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