Although the Inventory of American Painting lists more than one hundred works by William Jennys and an additional eighty ascribed to him, there is surprisingly little known about this prolific artist's life. He may have been the son, or perhaps the younger brother, of the portraitist Richard Jennys (active 1766-1801). Both artists worked in New Milford, Connecticut, beginning about 1795 and William's earliest known paintings were produced there. An advertisement which he placed in the Norwich (Connecticut) Packet in 1793, however, indicates that by then he was a practicing professional.
In 1797 and 1798 Jennys worked in New York City. After 1800 he traveled through New England, moving up the Connecticut River Valley to paint in Hatfield and Deerfield, Massachusetts, around 1801 and thereafter visiting Portsmouth, New Hampshire, Newburyport, Massachusetts, and several towns in Vermont. He produced primarily waist-length portraits, and was known active through 1807. [This is an edited version of the artist's biography published, or to be published, in the NGA Systematic Catalogue]
Warren, William Lamson. "The Jennys Portraits." Connecticut Historical Society Bulletin 20 (October 1955): 97-128.
Rumford 1981, 128-132.
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: 220.