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Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts


Art History

First Advisor

Dr. Regenia Perry


Relatively little is known of European artists who worked for short periods of time in the American Colonies during the eighteenth century. Perhaps Cosmo Alexander was typical of other artists who came to America seeking greater opportunity than in their homeland, only to leave several years later, perhaps disillusioned and no wealthier. Artists who are better known stayed in America long enough to build up clientele in a broad area and produced enough works to have many survive long enough to be documented by later sources. As the subjects in many of Alexander's portraits show, there was a large prosperous middle-class patronage of the art of portraiture. Considering the social conventions of the time, personal references and letters of recommendation would have facilitated travel and introduction to prospective clients. The emphasis of this research is the patronage which Cosmo Alexander found in the American Colonies as evidenced by portraits executed between 1765 and 1771. Family connections, Scottish ancestry and communities having large Scottish populations have played a part in determining probable routes. In 1961 Gavin L. M. Goodfellow submitted a thesis to Oberlin College on Cosmo Alexander. This was the first and (to date) the only extensive monograph on the artist. The thesis was general in nature, covering Alexander's life and listing all paintings known at that time, only sixteen of which were believed to have been painted in America. Because he dealt in detail with Alexander's total biography and stylistic characteristics, only one chapter was devoted to American works. Since Goodfellow's research the number of American paintings signed by or attributed to Alexander has increased from sixteen to twenty-six. With greater documentary evidence available, patterns can be established and generalizations made which possibly are typical of other artists in similar circumstances.


Part of Retrospective ETD Collection, restricted to VCU only.


© The Author

Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

June 2008