George Ticknor (1791-1871), Class of 1807
Oil on canvas
Gift of Constance V.R. White, Nathaniel T. Dexter, Philip Dexter, and Mary Ann Streeter; P.943.130
Thomas Sully’s likeness of George Ticknor (1791-1871) displays the mix of refinement and vigor that characterizes the artist’s most memorable portraits. It captures this erudite man of letters with an earnest, dreamlike expression as he looks out and beyond the viewer, apparently absorbed in noble thoughts. His abundant untamed curls and the billowing drapery and clouds in the distance appear animated as much by his intellect as by Sully’s fluid hand. In his mastery of expressive brushwork, the dramatic pose, and the idealization of form, Sully reveals not only his admiration for his early mentor, Gilbert Stuart, but also the debt owed to his British teacher, romantic portraitist Sir Thomas Lawrence. Boston native George Ticknor spent part of his youth in Hanover, New Hampshire, and later attended Dartmouth College (Class of 1807). In 1815, after having studied Latin and Greek privately and read for the law in Boston, he studied for nearly two years at the University of Göttingen. Ticknor served as Harvard’s first professor of modern languages from 1817 to 1835 and in 1849 published his most renowned work, the monumental History of Spanish Literature. He served on the boards of innumerable cultural and civic institutions, including the Boston Public Library, of which he was a founder. Beginning in 1829 the patrician scholar resided with his family in a four-story neoclassical townhouse, designed in 1803 by Charles Bulfinch, which overlooked the Boston Common. His descendants donated this painting and the contents of his extensive library, including its furnishings, to Dartmouth College in 1943.
Last Updated: 5/13/09