John Bradley is an artist whose oeuvre can be well documented through signed works, many of which are dated or inscribed with a street address. Biographical data is, however, more elusive, although he is known to have been active between 1827 and 1847. Neither his birth nor death dates are known, but the inscriptions on the versos of his five Totten family portraits, "Drawn by I. Bradley from Great Britton," indicate his country of origin. The discovery in England in 2005 of three paintings inscribed "I Bradley" followed by Suffolk locations and dated 1827 (a cow in a field) and 1830 (a pair of portraits), provide a possible clue to the area in England from where the artist came, and indicate that the he did not come to America until 1830 or later.
Bradley's earliest paintings show the sitters at full length and with many more accoutrements than in later paintings. Smaller than his subsequent works, they were probably painted while Bradley was in England.
By late 1832 Bradley was on Staten Island (then Richmond Island), where he painted Asher Androvette, a prominent citizen of that borough. With this portrait, Bradley adopted the waist-length format he was to use for adult sitters in America. In the next few years, Bradley's artistic career can be traced through his renderings of other Richmond residents--the Coles, Tottens, and Ellises. In 1833 he painted New York merchant Simon Content and his wife. Efforts to trace Bradley's place of residence at this time through church and census records and local newspapers have not met with success. The 1835 New York State Census, however, lists a William Bradley of the Westfield area of the island--where the artist's early sitters resided--whose household contained three "aliens," one of whom may possibly have been John Bradley.
In the 1836 New York city directory, Bradley is listed as a "portrait painter" at 56 Hammersley Street. From 1837 to 1843 he is recorded at 128 Spring Street, and it is at this address that he executed the National Gallery painting as well as his only known miniature. Bradley's last address in New York, from 1844 to 1847, was 134 Spring Street. Two portraits date from this period. After these works, nothing further has been determined of Bradley's life or career. [This is an edited version of the artist's biography published in the NGA Systematic Catalogue; updated in 2013]
Lipman, Jean. "I. J. H. Bradley, Portrait Painter." Art in America 33 (July 1945): 154-166.
Stechow, Wolfgang. "Another Signed Bradley Portrait." Art in America 34 (January 1946): 30-32.
Black, Mary C. and Stuart H. Feld. "Drawn by I. Bradley from Great Britton." Antiques 90 (October 1966): 502-509.
Fitzgerald, Rosemary. "Artist John Bradley and the Totten Portraits." The Staten Island Historian 31 (January-March, 1971): 42-44.
Rumford 1981, 61-65.
Manchester, Ruth Garbisch. "Music and Mrs. Crawford: The Irish Connection." Monmouth County Historical Association Newsletter 12 (Fall 1983): 1-3.
Chotner, Deborah, with contributions by Julie Aronson, Sarah D. Cash, and Laurie Weitzenkorn. American Naive Paintings. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, D.C., 1992: 27-28.