The Art of Charles Loring Elliott

Born near Scipio Center in 1812, Charles Loring Elliott and family soon moved into Auburn where his father, an architect and building contractor, erected a house on the corner of William Street and Love Lane. 

An early fondness for painting was evident; however, his family and friends did not encourage the study of art as it was regarded as poor paying employment.  After working in his father’s shop which produced sleds, wagons and windmills, his father eventually placed him as a clerk in a store and next in a school to dissuade him from his choice of vocation. Elliott’s father finally gave in and allowed the young man to do architectural drawings for his firm. In 1829, with his father’s permission, Elliott left for New York City to “learn to be a painter.”

In New York City he became a student of Colonel John Trumbull, the eminent painter and president of the Academy of Fine Arts in New York. Elliott disliked Trumbull’s teaching style and soon sought out work at the studio of John Quidor. After six months with Quidor, Elliott returned to Central New York and spent the next ten years as a portrait artist. He also experimented with literary genre and landscape painting, taking his lessons from “the school of nature.”   

Mary Elizabeth Pitney Morgan, 1842 (Cayuga Museum Collection)
Oil on Canvas

In 1845, he returned to New York City and developed a reputation as one of the country’s best portrait painters of his time, elected as an associate member of the National Academy of Design. He showed annually at the National Academy and in 1867 showed a portrait of Fletcher Harper at the Paris Exposition. 

Greatly influenced by Gilbert Stuart and Henry Inman and the camera invention of L.J.M. Daguerre, Elliott was praised for his meticulous observation of individual characteristics and his naturalist approach to portrait painting. Upon his death in 1868, the New York Times declared “American Art has sustained a severe loss in the death of Charles Loring Elliott, the distinguished portrait painter.” 

Elliott painted over 700 portraits during his career including those of James Fenimore Cooper, Governor Seward, Presidents Andrew Johnson and Ulysses S. Grant, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. 

In addition to his portraits of nationally prominent people, Elliott painted many local individuals. 

In 1842 the Morgan family invited Elliott to spend the autumn with them on Cayuga Lake in Aurora, NY. According to his commission book, he painted five portraits- Edwin Barber “E.B.” Morgan and his wife Charlotte; Christopher and his wife Mary Elizabeth; and Henry Morgan, at a price of $40 per portrait. 

Christopher Morgan, Esq., 1842 (Cayuga Museum Collection)
Oil on Canvas

Christopher Morgan, Esq. (1808 – 1877) was a lawyer, congressman, Secretary of State of New York, and Mayor of Auburn. He graduated from Yale College in 1830, where he suffered an accident requiring him to wear a patch over his disfigured eye. “The keen intellect and sparkling humor… however soon caused the defect to be overlooked and no young man in the country was socially more popular.” (Auburn Daily Bulletin, April 3, 1877)

Morgan finished his legal studies with Elijah Miller and William H. Seward in Auburn, and was a law partner of Seward’s in 1844. He was elected to Congress in 1839 and served two terms.  He served two terms as the Secretary of State of New York, and was elected Mayor of Auburn in 1860 and 1862.

In 1832 he married Mary Elizabeth Pitney (1813 – 1893). The couple had four children. She was “his constant companion and his advisor in many matters of importance. During his two terms in Congress… she took a remarkable interest in public affairs.” (NY Times, Oct. 15, 1893)

Learn More about Charles Loring Elliott!

Elliott painted over 700 portraits during his career including:

Matthew Brady

James Fenimore Cooper

Colonel Samuel Colt of Hartford, CT

Capt. and Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt

Horace T. Cook, Esq. of Auburn

Mr. and Mrs. Kellogg

Josiah Barber and wife

Harrison B. Dodge and wife of Skaneateles

Captain James Hall and wife

Miss Horton of Skaneateles

Mrs. Rachel Foot of Aurora

Benjamin F. Avery

Edwin B. Morgan and wife

Christopher Morgan and wife

Governor Seward (full length)

Search Through Elliott’s Other Work Around the Country!

Everson Museum of Art

Metropolitan Museum of Art

National Gallery of Art