Robert Gilmor, Jr. (1774-1848) : Baltimore collector and American art patron

Humphries, Lance Lee, Department of Art History, University of Virginia
Stein, Roger B., McIntire Department of Art History, University of Virginia
Goedde, Larry, McIntire Department of Art History, University of Virginia
Johns, Christopher, McIntire Department of Art History, University of Virginia
Leffler, Phyllis, Department of History, University of Virginia

Robert Gilmor, Jr. (1774-1848) of Baltimore, Maryland was of one the most significant art collectors and patrons in the United States before 1850. Based on archival research, Volume I explores a number of issues regarding Gilmor as collector. Volume II provides a detailed catalogue of the nearly 400 paintings in his collection, numerous miniatures, drawings, prints, sculptures, and antiquities.

A merchant, Gilmor matured in an international environment of great wealth, including art collectors and patrons. His marriage to Sarah Reeve Ladson of Charleston provided further art alliances. Gilmor also collected coins and medals, autographs, minerals, antiquities, and medieval manuscripts. These collections are some of the earliest documented in the United States, and brought Gilmor recognition among the intellectuals of his day.

As early as 1797 Gilmor was purchasing paintings, and he continued to collect for the remainder of his life, acquiring numerous Old Master and contemporary European works in the United States and abroad. This study explores what it meant to be a connoisseur of such paintings, and how Gilmor displayed them publicly and privately for the advancement of the arts. He also acquired works by more than 45 artists working in the United States, including John Gadsby Chapman, Thomas Cole, Thomas Doughty, William Sidney Mount, Raphaelle Peale, and Robert Walter Weir, among others. National in scope, his collection represented artists working in all the major centers. An early important patron of Horatio Greenough, his commissions enabled Greenough to develop the skills necessary to accept important national commissions. Although best known for his patronage of Cole, this study places Gilmor' s interest in Cole in the larger context of his life and collecting.

Gilmor was interested in the establishment of national artistic and intellectual organizations and the formation of national imagery. For over two decades he presided over the construction of the Baltimore Washington Monument. He believed Washington, DC should be a vital center for the arts and letters, and at the end of his life hoped the Smithsonian Institution would purchase his collections as the nucleus of a national museum. As his offer was not accepted, they were subsequently dispersed.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Digitization of this thesis was made possible by a generous grant from the Jefferson Trust, 2015.

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