painted landscapes, overmantels, and an important group of early New England portraits, including several of the most prominent citizens of Duxbury, Massachusetts.Hathaway was born in Freeport, Massachusetts, and was painting in the vicinity of Taunton, Massachusetts, by 1790, when he was only twenty years of age. His first portrait,
Lady with Pets,
probably of Molly Wales Fobes, is also his best known and most eccentric. This decorative painting features the impressive Mrs. Fobeswearing a powdered wig hat sprouts two large feathers, and surrounded by butterflies, birds, and her black cat Canter. The artist’s initials along with the year 1790 appear in the lower rightcorner. The earliest portrait to bear his full signature is
Reverend Caleb Turner,
dated 1791, with a pendant portrait of Mrs. Turner, who was related to Mrs. Fobes.These early efforts establish a pattern of patronage among relatives and neighbors, as well as many of the conventions that characterize Hathaway’s work, including hisemphasis on costume and accessories such as flowers, jewels, and fans; arms stiffly posed in angular positions; three-quarter-length figures filling the canvases; andincisive delineation of faces, with heavy outlining and shading from the brow to the nose. A number of the paintings are framed in heavy bolection molding thatHathaway is thought to have made himself.In 1793 Hathaway went to Duxbury, where he painted ten portraits for the powerful family of shipping magnate Ezra “King Caesar” Weston. Shortly thereafter, he painted
another wealthy and influential Duxbury patriarch, as well as members of his family. He also painted
Joshua Winsor’s House & c.,
whichshows Winsor himself in the foreground holding the key to his extensive residential and business properties. It is conjectured that while painting Winsor’s two prettydaughters, the young artist fell in love with 17 year old Judith, and married her in December 1795. The Hathaways settled in Duxbury, and possibly at the behest of hisfather-in-law, Hathaway began studying to be a physician. Although his primary occupation after marriage was in medicine, Hathaway continued painting until about1808. Twenty-five works are known today, including portraits, miniatures, landscapes, and overmantels. Dr. Hathaway also made at least one woodcarving, a largespread-winged eagle that was placed at the top of a temporary arch erected to inaugurate a new bridge over the Bluefish River. Hathaway was highly respected as a physician, and practiced medicine until the end of his life; in 1822 he was made an honorary fellow of the Massachusetts Medical Society. It is as a physician thatHathaway is remembered on his headstone, in an epitaph that he himself may have composed.
Miniatures; Painting, Landscape
Lipman, Jean, and Tom Armstrong, eds.
American Folk Painters of Three Centuries.
New York, 1980.Little, Nina Fletcher. “Doctor Rufus Hathaway, Physician and Painter of Duxbury, Massachusetts, 1770–1822.”
Art in America,
vol. 41, no. 3 (summer 1953): 95–139. ——.
Paintings by New England Provincial Artists, 1775–1800.
Boston, 1976.Valentine, Lanci.
Dr. Rufus Hathaway: Artist and Physician, 1770–1822.
Duxbury, Mass., 1987.Valentine, Lanci, and Nina Fletcher Little. “Rufus Hathaway, Artist and Physician.”
The Magazine Antiques,
vol. 131, no. 3 (March 1987): 628–641