Susanna Wright and Deborah Logan

Susanna Wright and Deborah Logan
Oil on Canvas
66 x 48 inches

For inquiries, please contact us at info@adrianmartinez.com or by calling 484-273-8352.

Susanna Wright and Deborah Logan

This painting is an imaginative representation of two remarkable women, Susanna Wright (1697-1784) and Deborah Norris Logan (1761-1839). Deborah Norris Logan knew and admired Susanna Wright, but they were not close in age. However, they had much in common. Both were born into influential Quaker families, an “elite” who had wealth, political power, education and culture. Humphry Marshall as businessman, botanist and scientist was also an outstanding member of that elite. Susanna, by sheer force of her genius and leadership skills, became the unquestioned head of a brilliant family enterprise creating, on the very edge of the frontier, a prosperous business and community. Deborah Norris married the grandson of James Logan, a union of two of the leading Quaker families in Pennsylvania. She was known for her journal writing, poetry and for single-handedly preserving, organizing, copying, and eventually publishing four volumes of correspondence between James Logan and William Penn. She was the first woman accepted for membership into the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

On the left, Susanna is weighing a skein of blue silk of her own manufacture while holding a magnifying lens. Deborah, for the moment Susanna’s amanuensis (scribe), is taking down technical information or perhaps writing in her well-known journal. This type of grand manner painting is known as a “conversation piece.” Susanna Wright and Debora Logan are surrounded by objects of art, literature and science. The elaborate stage set functions as both portraiture and symbolism – implying that these women are also idealized personifications of the muses.  Since the Renaissance, artists have been challenged to depict their subjects in such a way that the objects around them reinforce their family prestige while making it clear that their superior intellectual and cultural accomplishments justify their privileged station in society.

The elite standing of these women is reinforced by the composition. Despite the implied movement of their gestures, they are actually static figures. Susanna Wright firmly anchors the left side of the painting with a severe verticality that makes clear her forceful and commanding personality. Deborah Norris Logan sits with pen poised, frozen in a moment of intense concentration while listening to her charismatic companion. The blue dress that lavishly cascades over her feet creates a stable pyramid which supports the visual tension and accents the reserve of the elegant writer. At the exact center of the painting, an early 1700s table top serves as a visual hub for objects radiating out in all directions, thus the explosion of iconic signs and symbols is kept in balance between these two remarkable people.

Drawing the Line

Drawing the Line
Oil on Canvas
48 x 66 inches

For inquiries, please contact the artist at info@adrianmartinez.com or call 484-273-8352.

Drawing the Line

After four years and 231 miles of relentlessly making their way west through the wilderness, the intrepid surveyors Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon had almost completed their task of mapping the boundary line between Pennsylvania and Maryland. On October 9, 1767, Mason and Dixon met with the chief of the Mohawks who let them know that no Indian escort would proceed with their party one step farther west.  Mason and Dixon pled their case to at least push on through the remaining distance to Pennsylvania’s western border, but to no avail. Although there were many months of hard work ahead of them, Mason, Dixon and their team had reached the end of the line which also ended, to all parties’ eventual satisfaction, the longest legal dispute in British history.

Mason and Dixon spent Christmas day in Philadelphia, meeting with the commissioners in charge of their project. They were given some additional tasks, one of which was to draw a map of the line. They chose to do so at the Harlan family farm in Chester County, the place where they spent every winter. Over the years, Mason, Dixon and the Harlan family had all become friends and this painting depicts the surveyors seated at a country table, surrounded by members of the Harlan family, drawing the line. In this congenial atmosphere, Charles Mason sits with quill pen in one hand, poised over the map and holding a bottle of ink in the other. With everyone listening intently, he describes a subtle point of surveying or perhaps he is relating a hair-raising adventure they survived in the wilderness. Jeremiah Dixon, a skilled draftsman and the primary map maker, seems to be bringing his friend’s attention back to the job at hand. The audience pictured in this drama is perhaps beginning to suspect the great historical significance of what Mason and Dixon have accomplished and that they have witnessed.

Meeting at Martin’s Tavern

Meeting at Martin’s Tavern 
Oil on Canvas
48 x 66 inches

For inquiries, please contact the artist at info@adrianmartinez.com or call 484-273-8352.

Meeting at Martin’s Tavern

In 1764, 42-year-old Humphry Marshall helped build the beautifully laid Martin’s Tavern in West Bradford Township. That same year, two men happened to pass through town. With their entourage of Indian guides, woodsmen, mule drivers, camp followers and wagons loaded with the latest, most sophisticated surveying tools of the time, Englishmen Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon were on their way to make history. Mason and Dixon had been hired by the feuding Penn and Calvert families to settle a border dispute between Maryland and Pennsylvania/Delaware.

In this painting, the artist imagines Humphry Marshall taking a break from the hard labor of stonemasonry to speak with the two exotic travelers. At the center, Dixon (left), Marshall (facing the viewer) and Mason (right) confer on the top-of-the-line surveying instruments brought from England with all the intensity of typical 18th-century “curious gentlemen.”

On the far left of the painting, a single individual watches and understands that the surveyors bring an end to his way of life. This man, filled with foreboding, is one of the dozen Iroquois “guides” (actually bodyguards) hired to protect this valuable team.

On the far right of the painting, are free blacks Phoebe Spence and her daughter Mary. While the Spences were part of a small community of free blacks, other African Americans were still held in slavery across Pennsylvania, including Chester County. It was a tragedy of 18th-century Pennsylvania that “free” for a person of color was not the same as “free” for a white person. Blacks accused of crimes were tried in a separate court until 1778, and were denied jury trials.

In the middle left of the painting, two female indentured servants are preparing water for distribution during the pause in work. Both women, working for the Marshall family, have several years left on their indentures.  Abigale Bennett (left) is pregnant so she faces having additional time added to her term of service. She will have to work longer for the Marshalls to make up for time lost and money spent during her “laying in.” Her child, if there is no one able to care for it, faces the prospect of being bound out as a servant or apprentice.

This accidental meeting of Marshall and his household with Mason and Dixon depicts a range of freedom and possibility. For some, such as Marshall, Mason, and Dixon, it is a time of discovery. For others, such as the women, it is a time of limited opportunities, as their lives were restricted by race, low economic status, and marriage.

Portrait of Humphry Marshall

Starting today, I will be posting the paintings and labels from the exhibit at CCHS. And I will start with the star of the show…Humphry Marshall. Oh, and this spectacular panorama photograph of the exhibit (well, half of the exhibit) by Jim Lawson:

Portrait of Humphry Marshall
Oil on Canvas
66 x 48 inches

For inquiries, please contact us at info@adrianmartinez.com or by calling 484-273-8352.

Humphry Marshall

Humphry Marshall was born on October 10, 1722, to Abraham and Mary Marshall in their homestead between the forks of the Brandywine River in West Bradford Township, Pennsylvania. He spent most of his life as a British subject, living close to the frontier in this rapidly growing colony of the British Empire. Despite having little formal education, he became the archetypal American, inventing or in some cases improvising what it meant to participate in the creation of a new kind of nation.

He was a man of prodigious energy and genius and was successful in business, characteristically evaluating all of his financial negotiations with the Latin phrase cui bono (who benefits). A prominent farmer, mason and miller, Humphry was dismissive of those without a drive for knowledge or the capacity for vigorous physical labor. Some of Marshall’s civically minded interests included building bridges, campaigning for better roads, participating in the founding of Westtown School and helping to create the first poorhouse in Chester County. He was known for his probity and at different times he held the positions of County Treasurer and Overseer of Bradford Meeting. He was also appointed to the Committee of Indian Affairs by Philadelphia Yearly Meeting. A truly “weighty friend”, Marshall spent his life in what is now Marshallton and in due time was buried there, according to Quaker custom, in a simple, unmarked grave.

However, Marshall had another other life, that of a scientist and internationally recognized, self-proclaimed, “curious gentleman”. As such, he made contributions to the rapidly evolving 18th century study of botany and astronomy and had serious interests in mineralogy, zoology, pharmacology and geology. He was an early advocate for the scientific exploration of the American West, although this dream was not realized until the expedition of Lewis and Clark a few years after his death. His friends and personal acquaintances were scientific, political and cultural leaders like Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, John Fothergill and Susanna Wright. They also included Revolutionary War heroes like “Mad” Anthony Wayne and prominent Quakers like Anthony Benezet, an ardent abolitionist who also promoted the Peace Testimony.

William Darlington (1782-1863), a historian and a major botanist in his own right, described Marshall as being “fifty years ahead of his time.” But Friend Marshall was also a man of his time and place, living with all the complexities and uncertainties of an evolving society. Peacefully, but effectively, he participated in disenfranchising the local Native American population. He owned at least one slave and he doubtless had many indentured servants as well. His mind was brilliant and audaciously original, but not particularly artistic. Unlike his more famous cousin and botanical contemporary, William Bartram, Marshall was not a skilled artist nor did he write with the radiance and passion of William Bartram, whose style foretold the coming romantic age in literature. Perhaps these are some of the reasons for his relative obscurity today, but the primary reason is the great loss of much of his correspondence and associated writing. An outstanding exception is his primary botanical achievement, the Arbustum Americanum: The American Grove, a comprehensive study of American trees and shrubs published in 1785.

Longwood and Humphry Marshall – March 2, 2017

Art, history and horticulture had a great night together at the CCHS.  Matthew Ross, Continuing Education Coordinator at Longwood Gardens put together a program that included my speaking about Humphry Marshall and his history of plant exploration, and lectures from two amazing adventurer’s in the world of modern plant explorations – Peter Zale, Curator at Longwood Gardens and David Culp, famed horticulturist and author of The Layered Garden. David and Peter’s passion for plants was such an inspiration for everyone lucky enough to hear them and Matthew Ross has my gratitude for immediately seeing how the legacy of our past (in this case art, horticulture and science) can inform our present and our future.


Peter, David, Adrian and Matthew

Opening Night – November 2016

On November 4, 2016 the Humphry Marshall show had an amazing opening night with incredible crowds and a few celebrity appearances:

Benjamin Franklin showed up with a few friends:

 

And a few more amazing people:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The night closed with a few speeches, great food, and of course, spending time with the exhibit: