William Thompson Bartoll


a native of Marblehead, Massachusetts, painted mainly portraits and landscape scenes in the vicinity of his place of birth. The son of John and Rebecca ThompsonBartoll, the artist was baptized in the town’s First Church on June 22, 1817. He married local resident Sally Lindsey Selman on April 21, 1835, and continued to residein Marblehead, where the couple had seven children. Bartoll died of “lung fever” on February 15, 1859, at the age of forty-one.Local tradition indicates that Bartoll began his career in his father’s trade as a housepainter. His earliest known portrait is of David Quill and dates from 1829.Quartermaster on the frigate
Bartoll’s subject is depicted in a bust-length composition, devoid of decorative details except for the gold pin, initialed withthe letter
that he wears on his cravat.Working from the 1830s to the mid-1850s, Bartoll executed portraits depicting men involved in Marblehead’s maritime economy and their families. As he developedinto a skilled portrait artist, Bartoll generally painted subjects in interior scenes, seated at tables and often holding books to communicate their status as literate membersof New England’s burgeoning middle class. In later years, he is believed to have occasionally based his compositions on photographs.In addition to portraiture, Bartoll also painted landscapes, murals, and genre subjects. Suggesting ambitions beyond local renown, from 1841 to 1855 he exhibitednumerous pictures at the Boston Athenaeum, including several landscapes as well as a genre scene titled
The Miser,
the location of which is now unknown. In 1852 theMarblehead Bank paid him fifty-four dollars to decorate the paneled great hall of its facility with faux oak graining, indicating that Bartoll continued to paint, using avariety of methods, over his lifetime in order to maintain his professional livelihood.
See also
Maritime Folk Art; Painting, American Folk; Painting; Landscape
Chamberlain, Narcissa G. “William T.Bartoll, Marblehead Painter.”
The Magazine Antiques,
vol. 122 (November 1982): 1089–1095.Perkins, Robert F.Jr., and William J.Gavin III.
The Boston Athenaeum Art Exhibition Index, 1827–1874.
Boston, 1980