Sarah Perkins


Perkins was a sensitive portraitist whose authorship of a significant body of work in pastel and oil was not recognized until 128 years after her death. She was born into the prominent Plainfield, Connecticut, family of Dr. Elisha and Sarah Douglas Perkins, the fourth of their ten children.In 1959, art historian William Lamson Warren identified Sarah as the young pastelist who had produced a group of Perkins family portraits when he discovered aninscription on the back of a likeness of her second cousin, the Reverend Nathan Perkins of Hartford, Connecticut. Written by his granddaughter Julie Seymour (1804–1886), the inscription stated, “This portrait, and the accompanying one of his wife, were taken in 1790, in colored crayons, by Miss Sarah Perkins, at nineteen years of age, while on a visit tothe family.” An overview of the approximately 35 pastels that are attributable to Sarah Perkins reflects a rapidly developing level of skill and assurance as she mastered her medium. Two years before Sarah Perkins was identified by William L.Warren, another art historian, Nina Fletcher Little (1903–1993), had isolated a group of six oil paintings that were stylistically related to one another. Included in this group were the large and complex portraits of a Dr. and Mrs. Beardsley. As no evidence existedregarding the identity of the artist, Little introduced the artist as the “Beardsley Limner” when she published her findings in the Connecticut Historical Society Bulletin in 1957.Christine Skeele Schloss expanded the oeuvre of the Beardsley Limner by recognizing eight more portraits, and in 1972 the growing body of work was exhibited atthe Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Center in Williamsburg, Virginia. By 2003 three more works had been attributed to the limner, bringing the total output to 17 oil portraits.In 1984, art historians Colleen Cowles Heslip and Helen Hill Kellogg published the results of research that was prompted by their recognition of the fact that therewere stunning stylistic parallels between the pastels of Sarah Perkins and the accomplished but anonymous oil portraits. They concluded that there was indeedcompelling evidence indicating that the talented young pastelist and the elusive Beardsley Limner were almost certainly the same artist, and today Sarah Perkins is finallycredited for being a much more versatile and significant artist than had been previously realized.