JAMES SHARPLEScirca 1751-1811
James Sharples, pastel and oil portraitist and inventor, was born about 1751 in Lancashire, England. As a youth, Sharples had intended to enter the priesthood, spending some time in religious studies in France. He soon changed his plans, however, returning to England to embark on a career as an artist. Sharples developed a secondary interest in mechanical invention, an occupation in which he was much less successful than in his painting. As an accomplished portrait painter in oils, Sharples worked in Bath, Bristol, Cambridge, Liverpool, and London before coming to America in 1793 with his family. Upon their arrival, the Sharples traveled throughout New England by coach, selling an impressive number of pastel portraits, until settling in Philadelphia in 1796-97. In Philadelphia, Sharples specialized in cabinet-sized pastel portraits of the city’s leading citizens, including one of George Washington. The Sharples relocated to New York City around 1798-99, where James continued to pursue his successful portrait work. In 1801 the family returned to England and settled in Bath, but moved back to America in 1809. By this time, two of Sharples’ sons, James, Jr. and Felix, had also become professional artists.