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Thursday, 16 June 2011 01:55

Rediscovering the Murals of Jonathan D. Poor

Many people still think only of Rufus Porter (1792–1884) when they discuss New England landscape murals of the 1825–1845 period. Current research poses the probability, however, that in fact muralist Jonathan D. Poor (1807–1845) was much more prolific than Porter, his more famous uncle and mentor. While approximately 115 to 120 murals have traditionally been attributed to or associated with Porter, there are only three actually documented with his signature—those in Wakefield (Fig. 1), Westwood, and Woburn, Massachusetts. In contrast, while to date only thirty-five to forty murals have been attributed to Jonathan D. Poor, his signature appears in ten murals in Maine (Fig. 2) and two in Massachusetts, five of which are also dated, and some of which were previously attributed to Porter. This data and the reexamination of the known murals has allowed for the attribution of many other unsigned murals to his, rather than to Porter’s hand.

Rufus Porter left his mark on nineteenth-century American history as an itinerant artist, muralist, inventor, teacher, and founder of Scientific American magazine, among others.1 Unfortunately, much less is known about his nephew.
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