Jacob Eichholtz, 1776-1842: Pennsylvania portraitist

Milley, John Calvin
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University of Delaware
The Lancastrian tinsmith and self-taught artist, Jacob Eichholtz, entered the arena of Pennsylvania portraiture on a full-time basis in 1813. Contact with Thomas Sully in 1809, and with Gilbert Stuart in 1811, had supplied him with the technical rudiments of his art, but the lasting influence on his work came as a result of the artist's long and laborious study of the Discourses of Sir Joshua Reynolds, and the Works of Sir Anton Raphael Mengs. ☐ The practicality of Eichholtz' Pennsylvania-German heritage left an indelible stamp on both his nature and his art. His sense of filial devotion and the sacrifices it entailed, gave restrictions to the geographical area within which he could work, and necessitated a relentless practice of portraiture. He aspired to the "higher" branches of his art. Persisting responsibilities, and a patronage which commissioned only portraits, precluded the fruition of these ambitions, but did not frustrate his attempts to communicate ideals of "Beauty" in portraiture. ☐ Eichholtz' art followed a natural pattern of development -- from the simple to the complex in composition -- from the complex to the simple in technique. From a corpus of approximately one hundred and thirty-five documented paintings of known location, this development has been divided into the following stylistic periods: ( 1) Early Period, c. 1806- 1810, (2) Classical Period, 1811-1822, (3) Transitional Period, 1823-1830, (4) Period of Technical Proficiency, 1831- 1842. ☐ It is significant that these periods should coincide roughly with incidents of importance in the artist's personal life. In Eichholtz' work is to be found the naiveté of a craftsman practising a "Fine Art", the struggles for attainment of success, and the self-assurance which success brings. And within the work of this one artist is to be found a summation of the evolution in portraiture from eighteenth century traditions to those of the early nineteenth century in America.