Robert Feke


(c. 1707–c. 1751)
of Oyster Bay on Long Island, New York, was the son of a Baptist preacher. Details of Feke’s early life as well as what training he may have received are vague. Hemarried a tailor’s daughter in Newport, Rhode Island, which became the center of Feke’s painting activity until about 1745, when he settled in Boston. He painted portraits in Philadelphia in 1746 and 1748, attended a wedding in Newport in 1751, and then disappeared.The highlight of Feke’s early career was a commission he received in 1741 from Isaac Royall Jr. (1719–1781), who lived near Boston. The commission would havegone to that city’s leading painter, John Smibert (1688–1751), had he not been ill at the time. Feke’s large canvas shows his debt to Smibert. Depicting five membersof the Royall family, seated and standing, the portrait is evidence of Feke’s artistic ambition and Isaac Royall’s estimation of his place in colonial society. The figures inthe Royall portrait are somewhat stiff and linear, but Feke would develop rapidly and impressively. Indeed, his portraits from the late 1740s of Boston and Philadelphiamerchant aristocrats, including members of the Bowdoin and Willing families, show Feke’s mastery at creating elegant poses, dramatic lighting effects, and depictingrich costume fabrics.
See also
Painting, American Folk; John Smibert
Craven, Wayne.
Colonial American Portraiture.
Cambridge, England, 1986.Saunders, Richard H., and Ellen G.Miles.
American Colonial Portraits, 1700–1776.
Washington, D.C., 1987