Samuel Lovett Waldo
Born Windham, Conn., April 6, 1783. Died New York City, February 16, 1861.

Samuel Lovett Waldo1 was born April 6, 1783 in Windham, Connecticut, the second of eight children born to Zacheus Waldo (1756–1834) and Esther Stevens Waldo (1758–1825).2 The elder Waldo was a veteran of the American Revolution who earned his living as a farmer and miller. Samuel Waldo received his first formal art instruction in 1799 from Joseph Steward (1753–1822), who was a minister, painter, and museum keeper in Hartford. Steward painted in a wooden style and his compositions were derivative of the work of Ralph Earl.  Waldo moved next to Litchfield, a small but thriving town in northwestern Connecticut.3 There he met the Congressman John Rutledge, who invited Waldo to Charleston, South Carolina, where he earned enough commissions between 1803 and 1805 to finance a trip to London.

In 1806, he sailed for England and entered the studio of the noted American expatriate painter Benjamin West.  Waldo carried letters of recommendation from John Trumbull—the Connecticut painter who had previously studied with West—to John Singleton Copley  and West.4 In London, Waldo shared lodging with another American pupil of West, Charles Bird King (1785–1862). Waldo also studied at the Royal Academy in London and exhibited a portrait there in 1808. Waldo came to admire not only the work of his teacher, but also that of the British academic portraitist Sir Thomas Lawrence (1769–1830). About 1817, he organized a subscription for Lawrence to paint West (Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, Conn.), thereby honoring both men and providing a high artistic example for his peers.5

Two years after his arrival in England, Waldo married Elizabeth Wood in Liverpool or Chester, England; the couple had five children.6 His first wife died in 1825, and the following year Waldo married Deliverance Mapes; they had seven more children.7

In 1809 Waldo returned to the United States and established himself in New York City as a studio portraitist. Three years later, Waldo was approached by an aspiring artist named William Jewett (1792–1874), who had been apprenticed to a carriage painter in New London, Connecticut, and who sought instruction as a fine artist.8 The two men became partners in 1817 and advertised themselves as Waldo and Jewett.9 Waldo is thought to have painted the faces and hands and Jewett to have added costume and drapery.10 They continued in business together until Jewett's retirement in 1854. Waldoa's studio was popular in the second quarter of the nineteenth century, and he painted many merchants, public officials, and fellow artists. His prominent sitters include General Andrew Jackson (1817, three versions, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Addison Gallery of American Art, Andover, Mass., and Historic New Orleans). Although he is known as a portraitist, Waldo also experimented with landscape, as he indicated in an 1819 letter to fellow painter Thomas Sully: "I have just returned from an excursion up the North River where Jewett and I have been making sketches and painting Landscapes for five weeks past."11

Waldo was active in the most prestigious fine arts institutions of his day. In 1817, he was elected one of the directors of the American Academy of Fine Arts in New York. He continued in that office until the Academy was dissolved in 1840.12 He also exhibited portraits and copies after Old Master paintings at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia.13 In 1826 he was among the founding members of the National Academy of Design, the New York institution that replaced the former American Academy in function and prestige.14 In 1846, Waldo became an associate member of the National Academy. Waldo died in 1861 and National Academy president Daniel Huntington organized a small memorial exhibition in his honor.15

1. There are several recent short accounts of Samuel Waldo that agree in their essential details: Robert W. Torchia in Torchia, Chotner, and Miles 1988, 223–24; Caldwell and Roque 1994, 317–18; Sally Mills, "Waldo, Samuel Lovett," in DA, 1996, XXXII, 777–78; and Marcia Goldberg, "Waldo, Samuel Lovett," in ANB, 1999, XXII, 478. Early accounts include Dunlap 1918, II, 355–58, which is a reprint of the 1834 first edition; and "Artist Biography. Samuel L. Waldo," in The Crayon 8: 5 (May 1861): 98–100.

2. Lincoln 1902, I, 248–50.

3. Goldberg 1999, 478.

4. Ibid.

5. Caldwell and Roque 1994, 318.

6. Lincoln 1902, I, 391.

7. Ibid., 392.

8. Sherman 1930, 82.

9. For the contract describing their partnership, see Caldwell and Roque 1994, 326.

10. The early scholar of American painting Frederic Fairchild Sherman rejects this traditional account of Waldo and Jewett's division of labor, arguing that Jewett was just as capable as his teacher and that their work is indistinguishable (1930, 86).

11. Samuel L. Waldo, New York, to Thomas Sully, August 8, 1819, Dreer Collection of Painters and Engravers, Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Archives of American Art, P20, frame 723.

12. Goldberg 1999, 479.

13. Rutledge 1955, 240.

14. Goldberg 1999, 479.

15. Ibid.