"A portrait is a picture in which there is just a tiny little something not quite right about the mouth." -- John Singer Sargent

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Benjamin Rush

This 1812-13 portrait of Benjamin Rush (1745-1813) by Thomas Sully hangs in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC.

“Benjamin Rush was a prominent physician, a social reformer, and a signer of the Declaration of Independence. After studying medicine abroad at the University of Edinburgh, he returned to Philadelphia to work. He advocated bloodletting and purges for many diseases but also moved the profession toward more manageable diagnoses and treatment regimens.
Rush's accomplishments were many. He was a pioneer in the study of mental illness; he organized the Pennsylvania antislavery society; he agitated for prison reform and the education of women; and he wrote the first American chemistry text.

Thomas Sully depicted Rush as a thoughtful man of letters. One of Rush's colleagues, who commissioned a version of this portrait, described how Sully ‘appreciate[d] the mind which animates the face of my friend ... I have no doubt that you will be enabled to furnish me with a portrait which will be gratifying to me.’” – National Portrait Gallery
This portrait appeared engraved in Lossing and Wilson's Encyclopedia of American History.

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