Jonathan Budington


(c. 1779–1823)
was a Connecticut portrait painter whose work has been included in many important exhibitions of early American folk art. The son of Walter and Ruth CouchBudington of Fairfield, Connecticut, he married Sarah Peck on June 13, 1820. Budington died in New Haven on January 18, 1823. Of his subjects whose identities areknown, all resided in Fairfield County.Budington painted his large portraits in oil on canvas, and five are signed “J.Budington” in red paint in the left lower corner. The heads and bodies of his sitters are posed in a three-quarter view, with adults depicted seated while children, with one exception, are shown standing. The subjects are often placed next to an opendoorway or window, frequently with background drapery. As a rule his portraits include details that suggest the social status and interests of the subject.These stylistic details, plus the frequent inclusion of red, upholstered, round-backed side chairs; the outlining of fingers, hands, and forearms with dark brown paint;heavy shadowing along the nose and under the chin; and large ears, suggest that Budington was strongly influenced by Ralph Earl, who was active in Connecticut between 1774 and 1801. Although they probably never met, Budington had undoubtedly seen Earl’s portraits hanging in Connecticut homes. The connection betweenthe two is best illustrated by the marked similarity of portraits that each did of three of the same subjects: John Nichols, his wife Mary, and Nichols and his son.Particularly significant is Earl’s 1795 portrait of Mrs. Nichols, showing her seated with her infant daughter on her lap. Budington’s portrait of Mrs. Nichols, paintedseven years later, is essentially identical except for the fact that the child, no longer an infant, is replaced by the spectacles that Mrs. Nichols holds.Although the number of his known paintings is small, their quality alone establishes Budington as an important member of the group of early nineteenth centuryConnecticut portrait painters.
See also
Ralph Earl; Painting, American Folk
Kern, Arthur, and Sybil Kern. “Jonathan Budington: Face Maker.”
Folk Art,
vol. 22 (fall 1997): 41–49.Kornhauser, Elizabeth Mankin.
Ralph Earl: Artist-Entrepreneur.
Boston, 1988.