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Luther Allen

American, 1780 - 1821

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Luther Adams Allen, a painter and musician, was born in Enfield, Connecticut, on 11 June 1780, the eighth child of the twelve children of Moses Allen and his first wife, Mary Adams. By 1795, Luther Allen had traveled to Newport, Rhode Island, where he worked with the decorative painter, engraver, portraitist, and mathematical instrument maker Samuel King. Allen remained in Newport for at least four years, and in 1799 he wrote a letter to his mother in Enfield explaining, "I am now attending Mr. King's Mathematical Instrument Shope [sic], as he has gone on a journey to Boston." Allen porbably did not receive lessons in portraiture from King; his awkwardly drawn, loosely painted portraits show little evidence of such training.

Allen returned to Enfield sometime between 1799 and 1801, when he advertised his services as an engraver, maker of portraits in oils, miniatures and pastels, and an ornamental painter with a wide range of skills. He is also recorded as an accomplished violinist, a teacher of music and dancing, and the composer of a contradance tune, "The Opera Reel."

On 17 November 1803 Allen married Sally Pease Abbe of Enfield. They had five children, the oldest four born in Enfield before 1812. That year, or sometime later--the date has not been established--the Allens moved to Ithaca, New York, but documentation of Allen's activities there has not come to light. On 27 November 1821, one year after the death of his wife, Allen died in Ithaca. [This is an edited version of the artist's biography published in the NGA Systematic Catalogue]

Artist Bibliography

Schloss 1972, 32.
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: 3-4.

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