WILLIAM ALLEN WALL1801-1885
New Bedford, Massachusetts portrait and landscape painter William Allen Wall was born in 1801 into a prominent Quaker family. Wall was fourteen years of age when his father passed away, which required him to find means to help support his family. William apprenticed himself to a watch and clock maker, John Bailey of Hanover, Massachusetts. By 1822 Wall had opened his own watch- and clock-making business in his home town. In 1826 Wall took up the painting of portraits and miniatures, placing an advertisement in the New-Bedford Mercury. He met Philadelphia portrait painter Thomas Sully in New Bedford and spent several months in 1830 working at Sully’s studio to improve his largely self-acquired painting skills. At Sully’s suggestion, in 1832 Wall went abroad to study in England, France and Italy, meeting and traveling with Ralph Waldo Emerson, who became his life-long friend. Upon arriving back in America, Wall returned to the prosperous seaport town of New Bedford, where he would spend the rest of his life and achieve success as a painter of portraits. His sitters were the merchants, couples, local dignitaries, and children of the town. He also began painting historical subjects, and became especially known for his paintings of early New Bedford scenes, such as his “Birth of the Whaling Industry” and “Purchase Street, Looking North from Union”, circa 1812. Wall’s work was exhibited at: the National Academy of Design, New York City; the Boston Athenaeum; the New Bedford Art Exhibition of 1858; the Benjamin W. Pierce Gallery, New Bedford; the Ellis Fine Art Gallery, New Bedford; the New Bedford Art Club; and the Dartmouth Historical Society. The artist died in 1885. Wall’s paintings are held among the collections of the New Bedford Free Public Library; the New York Historical Society; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the Dukes County Historical Society, Edgartown, Massachusetts; Dartmouth College; and the Old Dartmouth Historical Society, Dartmouth, MA.