Ira Chaffee Goodell


(1800–c. 1875),
a portrait painter, worked in western New England, the Upper Hudson Valley of New York State, and New York City during the mid-nineteenth century. A native of Belchertown, near Amherst and Northampton, Massachusetts, he was born on July 3, 1800, the son of Moses and Susannah Pettengill Goodell. Little is known aboutGoodell as an artist, although he must have begun to paint as a young man in Belchertown, as many of his earliest subjects, dating from the early 1820s, lived in thisarea.Goodell’s figures are rendered bust-length, without hands. Women, in particular, are portrayed wearing elaborate lace bonnets and collars as well as ornate shawlsthat all appear as abstracted forms lying flat on their bodies, or as outlined shapes contrasting against a neutral background.By the late 1820s Goodell was working in New York State, where he married Delia Cronin of Hudson on May 31, 1832. The couple continued to reside in theregion while Goodell traveled the countryside painting portraits, principally of the residents of Columbia, Albany, and Washington Counties. Most of his sitters were part of the burgeoning middle classes then populating the region, from merchants, shopkeepers, and farmers to wool-growers, attorneys, and physicians. His likenessesfrom this time are painted on tulipwood panels, a departure from his earlier use of canvas in Massachusetts.Perhaps to gain exposure to an urban center for the fine arts, Goodell had moved with his wife and family to New York City by 1835, where he lived until 1871.This period of Goodell’s career remains largely undocumented. City directories list him as a portrait painter, limner, or artist living in the Greenwich Village district until1861. He also spent some time in Vestal, New York, near Binghamton, in 1840; in New Brunswick, New Jersey, in 1859 and 1860; and in Nyack, New York, in1861. Ultimately, the artist returned to Belchertown, Massachusetts, where he died by about 1875.Goodell’s most impressive likeness depicts his six-year-old son, Angelo Newton Franklin. Something of a prodigy, the child is portrayed giving a publicdemonstration of phonographic writing, or the Pitman Method of shorthand, at the Apollo Rooms in New York, where he is captured in the process of transcribing from memory the Declaration of Independence. Datingfrom 1849, the year the Pitman Method was introduced to New York, the portrait is the only documented painting attributed to Goodell’s residency in the city.
See also
Painting, American Folk
Rumford, Beatrix T., ed.
American Folk Portraits: Paintings and Drawings from the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Center,
Williamsburg, Va., 1981.Piwonka, Ruth.
Painted by Ira C.Goodell: A Catalogue and Checklist of Portraits Done in Columbia County and Elsewhere by Ira C.Goodell (1800-c. 1875).
Kinderhook, N.Y., 1979