Chester Harding
American painter



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Chester Harding
American painter
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Birth Date

September 01, 1792

Death Date

April 01, 1866

More about Chester Harding

Works by Chester Harding

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With mutton chops like those, it’s a shame that Chester Harding isn’t more well-known.

I mean...look at them! Those are the fluffy, self-assured mutton chops of a man who knows what he wants. Unfortunately, Harding belongs to the long list of early American painters who, despite having painted important people, just did not make it to the uber elite list of artists we associate with American art. He was a self-taught artist who painted some of the more heroic figures of his time, giving them the folksy qualities that we now associate with early America. The Daniel Boone that Harding painted looks like he could have walked straight out of a Grandma Moses landscape.

Before he found his calling in portrait painting, though, he was a bit of a wayward soul. After raking up a mountain of debt that he could not pay off, Harding had to flee New York and move to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. This move ultimately helped shape his future. For work, Harding began painting houses, which eventually got him interested in fine art painting and portraiture.

He began to get serious about his art-making after he first tried his hand at portraiture, using just his ordinary house paints at the outset. In 1819, he saved up enough money to travel to Philadelphia to study at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. The Academy had recently opened in 1805, thanks in part to America’s most famous portraitist and father of the country’s first art dynasty, Charles Willson Peale. This was a hugely influential moment for Harding and he spent hours sketching in the galleries, which ultimately defined his approach to portraiture.

By 1820, Harding was living and working in St. Louis, Missouri, and heard that Daniel Boone, the legendary American frontiersman, lived in the area. In typical Daniel Boone fashion, Boone was living in a simple home miles away from anyone else, and Boone granted Harding permission to create what is now the only known portrait of him that was painted from life. Boone was an old man by the time anyone had painted him; he was 84 years old when he sat for Harding. However, other images have come from this original image. The portrait circulated after several printmakers copied and engraved the image to print on paper.

The Boone portrait was a huge win for Harding and was an early step in a prolific career. Harding’s oeuvre includes around one thousand portraits, including other significant contemporaries. In addition to prominent figures like Daniel Boone, he painted a number of presidents, including James Monroe.




  1. National Gallery of Art. “Biography.” Chester Harding. Collection. Accessed October 15, 2018.
  2. Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. “History of PAFA.” Museum. Accessed October 15, 2018.
  3. Trout, Carlynn, and Kimberly Harper. “Historic Missourians: Chester Harding.” The State Historical Society of Missouri. Accessed October 15, 2018.
  4. Worcester Art Museum. “Chester Harding.” Collection. Accessed October 15, 2018.

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Here is what Wikipedia says about Chester Harding (painter)

Chester Harding (September 1, 1792 – April 1, 1866) was an American portrait painter known for his paintings of prominent figures in the United States and England.

Early life

Harding was born at Conway, Massachusetts on September 1, 1792. He was the fourth of twelve children born to his mother, Olive (née Smith) Harding, and father, Abell Harding. He was brought up in the wilderness of New York state, he was a lad of robust physique, standing over 6 feet 3 inches. His family removed to Caledonia, New York, when he was fourteen years old, and he was early thrown upon his own resources for support, his initial trade being that of a turner.

Check out the full Wikipedia article about Chester Harding (painter).