William Rush



William Rush (1756-1833)


ca. 1822




15 1/2 x 18 x 11 in. (39.37 x 45.72 x 27.94 cm.)

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Although William Rush never went abroad for study or travel, and rarely left Philadelphia, he emerged as an extremely gifted craftsman and self-taught artist whose career flourished in a critical period in American history. His principal medium was wood (see 1990.8) which, when painted white, simulated more expensive marble sculptures. In "Self-Portrait," a rare terracotta work, Rush depicted himself as if emerging from a pine tree knot, perhaps as a kind of homage to his principal medium. At the back, which is as carefully finished as the front, Rush's hair is fused with the needle-shaped leaves of the pine branch in a stunning display of technical skill. No known plaster replicas survive, but several bronzes were cast posthumously. First exhibited at the Academy in 1822 and first recorded as a part of the permanent collection in 1849, it was conserved in 1988, at which time four layers of paint were removed to reveal the artist's intended original surface.