who was probably British by origin, became the most active limner or painter in the Dutch town of Albany, New York, from 1730s to 1740s. He arrived there by1730, the year he married Maria Van Hooghkerke, the daughter of a local Dutch family. It was not until the art historian Mary C.Black (1923–1992) discovered anentry for the year 1737 in the daybook of Abraham Wendell of Albany (“John Heaton I sent 7 fram[e]s & Ells Speckled Linne[n] to Cover the Same for the Pictures Iordered”) that the limner’s name was established. Until then, a group of Albany portraits were attributed to the unidentified “Wendell limner.”Little more is known about Heaton other than what can be gleaned from the paintings that survive. These include at least twenty portraits, eleven scripture history paintings, a genre scene, and one of the most remarkable early American folk art paintings—a landscape view of Marten Van Bergen’s farm near what is now calledLeeds, in Greene County, New York, a few miles south of Albany. The painting includes images of his family, servants, slaves, and members of a neighboring NativeAmerican tribe. That farm landscape relates to the portrait of Abraham Wendell, in which the artist painted Wendell’s proudest possession, a water-driven gristmill atAlbany, in the same style as Van Bergen’s farm.Heaton’s other portraits of prosperous merchants and farmers and their wives and children are similar to the subjects painted by Pieter Vanderlyn (c. 1682/ 1687– 1778), who worked at the same time in Albany and Kingston, New York. Both upriver limners were faithful to the costumes and background details of their subjects’lives, although they were painted in a vernacular style. These two limners satisfied their conservative provincial patrons who preferred accuracy to flattery and retainedtheir Dutch culture, in contrast to the wealthy Anglo-Dutch sitters who patronized New York City limners whose portrait compositions and clothing were painted tomimic English courtly portraits.
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