Ethan Allen Greenwood


a portrait artist and museum proprietor, as well as a school-teacher, lawyer, and manufacturing clerk, made silhouettes, miniatures, and painted portraits in NewEngland and New York State during the early nineteenth century. Existing memorandum books, dating from 1801 to 1810, present a vivid account of the artist’s lifeand career. Additional extracts generated by a descendant, based on the artist’s destroyed original volumes, provide further insight into Green-wood’s world during theyears between 1798 and 1825. A third source, also provided through the descendant, is a checklist of Greenwood’s portraits. According to this list, the artist executedmore than eight hundred likenesses during the twenty-four-year period between 1801 and 1825.Born in Hubbardston, Massachusetts, the artist was the son of Moses and Betsey Dunlap Greenwood. He attended Dartmouth College, graduating in 1806. Inaddition to later practicing law, Greenwood began painting portraits as early as 1801. His earliest compositions depict family members, as well as likenesses copiedfrom famous pictures of American patriots, including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin.By 1813 Greenwood had given up his lifestyle as an itinerant portraitist and settled in Boston, where he opened a studio. He received art criticism from Gilbert Stuart (1755–1828), and interacted with fellow artists John Ritto Penniman (1782–1841), John Vanderlyn (1775–1852), and John Wesley Jarvis (1780–1840),among others. He also secured instruction in art from Edward Savage (1761–1817), ultimately purchasing Savage’s museum in 1818, and incorporating it as the NewEngland Museum and Gallery of the Fine Arts. In time Greenwood, the entrepreneur, supplemented this attraction with other collections he purchased, includingWilliam M.S. Doyle’s (1769–1828) Columbian Museum; the Boston Museum, founded in 1804 by Philip Woods; John Mix’s collection in New Haven, Connecticut;and the artifacts belonging to the Linnaean Society at Harvard. By 1825 his success in securing curiosities led Green-wood to open additional facilities in Providence,Rhode Island, and Portland, Maine.After his father’s death in 1827, Greenwood returned to Hubbardston; two years later, on February 1, 1829, he married Caroline Carter Warren. Although hemaintained ownership of the New England Museum, Greenwood retreated from the institution’s daily activities to his residence in central Massachusetts, and insteadserved in local politics, became a justice of the peace, farmed, and purchased property. During the 1830s, sculptor Thomas Ball (1819–1911) relieved Greenwood of his museum duties. By 1839 Greenwood had sold the museum to Moses Kimball, thus concluding the artist’s participation in the worlds of art, culture, and popular amusement.
See also
William M.S.Doyle; Painting, American Folk; Papercutting; John Ritto Penniman
“A List of Portraits Painted by Ethan Allen Greenwood.”
Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society,
vol. 56, part 1 (April 1946): 129–153.Barnhill, Georgia Brady. “Extracts from the Journals of Ethan A. Greenwood: Portrait Painter and Museum Proprietor.”
Proceedings of the American AntiquarianSociety,
vol. 103, part 1 (April 1993): 9–101.Benes, Peter.
Itinerancy in New England and New York: Annual Proceedings of the Dublin Seminar for New England Folklife.
Boston, 1986