GILBERT CHARLES STUART (1755–1828)
Portrait of Barney Smith, about 1825
Oil on wood panel, 39 x 29 1/4 in.
RECORDED: George C. Mason, The Life and Works of Gilbert Stuart (New York: C. Scribner’s Sons, 1879; reprint, ed., New York: Burt Franklin, 1972), p. 257 // Lawrence Park, Gilbert Stuart: An Illustrated Descriptive List of His Works, with an Account of His Life by John Hill Morgan and an Appreciation by Royal Cortissoz (New York: W. E. Rudge, 1926), vol. I, p. 694; vol IV, p. 471 no. 770 illus. // Charles Merrill Mount, Gilbert Stuart: A Biography (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1964), “The Works of Gilbert Stuart,” p. 375 // Carrie Rebora Barrett and Ellen G. Miles, Gilbert Stuart, exhib. cat. (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2004), pp. 299–301 in discussion of portrait of his daughter, Lydia Smith
EXHIBITED: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 1880, Exhibition of Portraits Painted by Gilbert Stuart // Memorial Art Museum, Rochester, New York, November–December 1941, Milestones in American Art // Robert C. Vose Galleries, Boston, April 7–May 1. 1943, The Art of Colonial America and the Early Republic, no. 2
EX. COLL.: Barney Smith, until 1828; to his widow, Mrs. Barney (Ann Otis) Smith, until 1843; to her son, Henry Barney Smith (1787–1861), Boston; by bequest to his niece, Geraldine Russell (1819–1885), Milton, Massachusetts; to her son, George Robert Russell Rivers (1853–1900); to his widow; to their son, Robert Wheaton Rivers (1882–1945), Santa Barbara, California; to [Vose Galleries, Boston, 1943–44]; to Roger Ernst (1881–1955), great-grandson of Lucinda Smith Otis, Brookline, Massachusetts, until 1955; to his widow; private collection, New York; to sale no. 6402, Christie’s New York, May 29, 1987, no 9 illus. in color; to George C. Seybolt, Boston, until 1993; to his family, by descent, until 2019
Barney Smith was one of twelve children born to Job and Hannah Barney Smith of Taunton, Massachusetts. He chose to become a merchant in Boston, following in the same path as his immensely successful older brother, Abiel (1746–1815). Abiel’s example also informed Barney Smith’s matrimonial choice. In 1783, he married Ann Otis, sister of Abiel’s wife, Lydia Otis Smith (1753–1814).
Barney Smith kept a shop at No. 3 State Street near to where Abiel lived and had traded as a merchant at No. 5. Over the years, Barney Smith did very well indeed. He and his wife raised a family of three children, Lucinda (1784–1865), Lydia (1786–1859), and Henry Barney Smith (1789–1861). Henry graduated from Harvard Law School. Lydia, an accomplished artist and musician, married a noted diplomat, Jonathan Russell. In 1805, Smith took his nephew and son-in-law, Lucinda’s husband, George Alexander Otis (1781–1863) into his business. In 1812, Barney Smith made a notable, high-profile purchase, acquiring the home of the last Royal Governor, Thomas Hutchinson. Called Unquety after its Native American place name, the house stood on a hill above the Neponsit River in Milton, Massachusetts overlooking Boston Harbor. Built in 1743, it had served as Hutchinson’s principal residence from 1764 until he fled to England in 1774. Smith and his descendants rebuilt, remodeled, and eventually replaced the original structure, which remained the family home until the 1930s. (The property is now part of the Milton Hill Historic District.)
When Abiel Smith died in 1815, a childless widower, he left a large fortune and a detailed will with specific bequests for numerous family members in addition to charitable grants to establish a school for the education of African-American children and a chair for the study of Modern Languages and Literature at Harvard College. Barney Smith was named executor of his brother’s will. When Barney died in 1828, the estate had not yet been liquidated and the executorship passed to Henry Smith. In 1818, Smith was named a Director of the Boston Branch of the Bank of the United States. In 1826, he was one of four Directors of The Granite Railway, credited as America’s first commercial railway. The railway, whose President was Thomas Handasyd Perkins, arguably Boston’s richest man, passed near the Smith property in Milton on its way to its terminus at the Neponsit River. At the time of his death, Barney Smith was President of the City Bank of Boston.