Gibbes Museum of Art

Charleston, SC



Charleston Connections: 1670 -1865

February 11, 1999, through November 7, 1999


The rich history of the Lowcountry is revealed through a selection of portraits, landscapes and sculpture from the Gibbes permanent collection. This exhibition features images from colonial times through the Civil War, highlighting noted Charleston heroes, battles and residents, including Henrietta Deering Johnston, America's first pastel artist.  (right: John William Hill, Panorama of Charleston, c. 1850)

Jeremiah Theus, one of the artists featured in the exhibition, came to America from Switzerland in 1735, settling with members of his family in Orangeburgh Township, By 1740 he was advertising himself in the South Carolina Gazette as a limner willing to decorate coaches and chaises and later offered to teach drawing. Working in the environs of Charleston his entire life, Theus seems to have enjoyed a good deal of success with little competition. His style stresses honest likenesses, with sitters in erect postures usually placed against simple backgrounds. In some of his paintings after 1750 he may have been responding to English mezzotints, as evidenced by the general flattening and reduction of shadows which take place. He probably did not paint the bodies of his sitters from life. (left: Jeremiah Theus, Lt. Colonel Barnard Elliott, c. 1740, oil on canvas, Gift of Mrs. Alexina J. C. Holmes)

Among the most ambitious pair of portraits done by Theus, the portraits of Lt. Colonel and Mrs. Elliott were at one time attributed to Allan Ramsay. Not only larger than the usual portrait by Theus, the Elliott portraits incorporate backgrounds: column bases and views of a landscape to the right. The Colonel's outfit may be an elaboration of the artillery's dress uniform, while Mrs. Elliott's was probably borrowed from an English source of a painting or print. Its overwrought finery belies her youth. The Gibbes Museum of Art has 25 paintings by Jeremiah Theus in its collection. 

Read more about the Gibbes Museum of Art in Resource Library

Editor's notes:

For further biographical information on Jeremiah Theus please see America's Distinguished Artists, a national registry of historic artists.

See a Resource Library article on The Charleston Renaissance for photos of related scenes.

rev. 5/27/11

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