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Portrait of General Giles by Joseph Wright

Emily B. Collins, MPhil
Arch Facial Plast Surg. 2010;12(5):364-365. doi:10.1001/archfacial.2010.63.
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Joseph Wright (1756-1793) was an American artist whose life and career was shaped by the American War of Independence. When he was born in Bordentown, New Jersey, George II was on the throne in England and ruled the American colonies. The American Revolution would result in the birth of a new nation, and it was in this new country that Wright would make his career.

Joseph was born to Patience Lovell Wright and Joseph Wright. Patience had been raised by strict Quaker parents on Long Island, New York. Joseph was a cooper (someone who makes barrels and other wooden vessels for shipping and storage) with a considerable amount of property. They likely met when Patience's family moved to Bordentown in 1729. She and her husband do not seem to have minded spending most of their time apart, even keeping separate homes; Mr Wright resided in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, while Mrs Wright stayed in Bordentown. Despite this, they did manage to produce 5 children. When Patience was a child, she and her sisters would amuse themselves by painting and making models from clay. With her own children, Patience continued to make art an important part of the home life of her own family. A biography of Patience written in 1778 noted that her husband did not care much for her artistic pursuits.1(p14)

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Wright (1756-1793). Portrait ofGeneral Giles,ca 1785. Oil on canvas. 29⅝ × 25⅛ in. Smithsonian American Art Museum. Gift of Mrs David C. Acheson and John W. Castles III, 1975.75.

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