Mary Harvey, Mrs. Paul Beck Jr. by Thomas Sully, 1813
When wealthy Philadelphia merchant Paul Beck, Jr., decided to commission portraits of himself and his second wife, Mary Harvey, the choice of Thomas Sully was an obvious one. Every detail, from the curve of the sofa on which Mrs. Beck’s arm rests to her high-waisted gown and curls à la grecque, as well as the neutral background, reveals Sully’s mastery of the neoclassical taste so popular in Federal Philadelphia.
Two years earlier, fresh from studies with Gilbert Stuart in Boston and Sir Thomas Lawrence in London, the young artist had caused a sensation in Philadelphia. Sully’s rapid execution and sheer facility with the brush made him the toast of the town-and the successor to the elderly Gilbert Stuart, who had previously been the splashiest, finest portraitist available in the young republic.
source: Dallas Museum of Art