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Displaying items by tag: Visionary

For William Matthew Prior, art was a business. While living in Portland, Maine, in the 1820s, he received some sort of art instruction that enabled him to paint in a manner that approached an academic model. From his earliest work in the 1820s until his final efforts in the early-1870s, he adapted his painting style to respond to the economic variables that affected his clientele. He created “short hand” methods of taking likenesses for many who could not afford—or did not desire—his more sophisticated examples. Prior’s decorative paintings appealed to a solidly middle-class taste and, after an early venture into the world of the art establishment in Boston, he viewed himself as an artisan, not a fine artist. He actively responded to the social issues of his time and his religious beliefs added a significant dimension to his life and work. Unlike most of his contemporaries, he never had to pursue another occupation to support his large family and he remained a painter throughout his life. Prior’s mastery of his craft—and his pragmatic marketing strategy—made art available to a previously overlooked group of Americans.

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