SOLD TO A PRIVATE COLLECTION, LONDON

 

 

TROMPE L'OEIL OF A MARINE WATERCOLOUR, A PAINT BRUSH AND A CHINESE PAINT JAR

Watercolour with pen & ink
15 x 19 cm

 

 

The present work is one of a series of trompe l'oeil watercolours that the Anglo-American lawyer and inventor J.H.B. Latrobe painted, possibly during the 1820's. It can be compared to a similar example in the Philadelphia Museum of Art (Acc. No. 2009-218-3) and with one sold (without an attribution) by Somerset & Wood [1]. This group appear to have been inspired by John's father, Benjamin Henry Latrobe (1764-1820), an architect who emmigrated to the U.S. from Britain and was also an amateur watercolourist who experimented with trompe l'oeil. Latrobe also occasionally painted under the Pseudonym E. Van Blon, notably in the works published in Fielding Lucas Jr.'s Lucas' progressive drawing book (1827).

 

John H.B. Latrobe was born the son of the engineer and architect B.H. Latrobe (whose public commissions included the design of the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C.) in Philadelphia. He entered West Point Military Academy in 1818, studying engineering. After graduating he decided instead to pursue a career as a lawyer and returned to Baltimore after his father's death to read law under Robert Goodloe Harper. Latrobe initially practiced with his younger brother, until the latter became a civil engineer. John became a lawyer for the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, later becoming their chief counsel for several decades.

 

Latrobe is also remembered as an inventor, whose best-known product was the 'Latrobe Stove', a bestselling product that was even more popular than Benjamin Franklin's stove. Alongside his legal and commercial activities, John was a supporter of the American efforts to assist emancipated slaves in returning to a safe home in Africa. He helped to found the Maryland Historical Society, one of the largest of its type that continues to run in America; he co-founded the American Bar Association; and was highly commended as both an artist and poet. Finally, he was one of a panel of three judges to award Edgar Allan Poe his first ever literary prize, which helped to launch the celebrated writer's career. 

 

 

Notes:

[1] https://somersetandwood.com/trompe-loeil-seascape-chinese-brush-early-19th-century-watercolour-painting-jf-178 [Last Accessed 07.07.2022]

JOHN HAZELHURST BONEVAL LATROBE (1803-1891)

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