(1785) Philip Thomas Coke Tilyard, baltimore portraitist
April 20th, 2011 5:54 pm
This article is the major part of a thesis submitted to the Faculty of the University of Delaware in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in Early American Culture, by Helen Townley McElhiney Sharp, May 1980.
A study of Philip Tilyard's paintings, his life, and how both interacted with the early nineteenth-century Baltimore environment was long overdue. Two early publications by Wilbur Harvey Hunter, Director of the Peale Museum in Baltimore, whetted the public's appetite for more information on Tilyard. One of them, a Peale Museum catalogue entitled "The Paintings of Philip Tilyard" (1949), represented the first public exhibition ever devoted entirely to the artist's works. The second publication was "Philip Tilyard" in "the William and Mary Quarterly", Vol. V11, July 1950, which aimed at a wider audience than the Baltimore show.
Self-portrait in a fur collar, c.1825
Beyond Mr, Hunter's writings, the files of the J. Hall Pleasants Studies in Maryland Painting at the Maryland Historical Society, Baltimore, and the Frick Art Reference Library, New York City, were the chief sources used in studying and locating Philip Tilyard's paintings. Many additional collections and individuals were helpful in bringing my thesis to completion.
Initially, I would like to mention the accomplished portraits of Mr. and Mrs. George Washington Waring in the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts (Winston Salem North Carolina), which inspired my thesis topic.
I am especially grateful to Mrs. Edward M. Hoshall, Tilyard's great-granddaughter, for her kindness toward me. The perusal of papers in her collection and photography of family-owned paintings was essential to this thesis. I also appreciate the warm reception given me by another member of the Tilyard family who prefers to remain anonymous.
List of Illustrations
MARY TILYARD, c1809, Anonymous Collection. Photograph by the author.
JAMES TILYARD, c.1816-1817. Collection of William R. Tilyard, on loan to the Greensboro Historical Museum, Greensboro, North Carolina. Photograph by the author.
CHARLES SLADE TILYARD, c.1824. Collection of Gibson E. Hoshall, Timonium, Maryland. Photograph by the author.
SELF PORTRAIT IN A FUR COLLAR, c.1825. Anonymous Collection. Photograph courtesy of the Frick Art Reference Library, New York.
THE ARTIST IN HIS STUDIO, c.1825. Collection of Carroll T. Hoshall, Monkton, Maryland. Photograph by the author.
SELF PORTRAIT, c.1825-1830. Anonymous Collection. Photograph courtesy of the Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore, Maryland.
Philip Thomas Coke Tilyard's Huguenot ancestors settled in Norwich, England, following the French religious persecutions of the 1680's (sic, please see family tree). Nearly one hundred years later, in 1773, the artist's father William disembarked at Baltimore. That burgeoning city with its active harbour and large Methodist population must have attracted the young Methodist, who had been raised in a river-port town. During Philip's youth the family resided on Water Street in the heart of Baltimore Town.
Philip (1785-1830) was William and Mary Tilyard's first child to survive infancy. Born on January 10, 1785, just after the famous Methodist Christmas Conference, he was named in honor of the visiting English presbyter Bishop Thomas Coke. The boy grew up under fundamentalist doctrines and learned the trade of house and sign painting from his father. As a youth, Tilyard showed a passion for drawing. Pursuing this interest, he attended an art academy which advertised lessons in sign and ornamental painting as well as landscape and portrait painting.
After his father's death in 1806, Philip was listed in the Baltimore city directories as a painter and glazier, or sign and ornamental painter. During the next several years, he received technical advice from Thomas Sully, the renowned Romantic painter, he gained the patronage of noted collector and connoisseur Robert Gilmore. Using his mentors' guidence, Tilyard began to paint subjects by copying the sixteenth-century and seventeenth-century masters and by reading eighteenth-century art theory. "Sir Joshua Reynolds","St. Cecilia", "Mary Tilyard", "Landscape with Cottage", and "Landscape with Castle" were the results of his early endevours.
Following his service in the War of 1812, Philip first advertised himself as a portrait painter. At this time the aspiring artist lived and worked just around the corner from Rembrandt Peale's new Baltimore Museum. Surely, he sought Peale's advice, or at least, used the museum's resources for study. His first professional portraits are documented by the admirable likenesses of Mr. and Mrs. William Baker, Sr.
For a brief period in 1816 and 1817, the native Baltimorean operated a dry goods store. In the latter year, Tilyard married a local china merchant's daughter Martha Moule, who bore him five children. After the bankruptcy of his merchant business, Philip returned to his former profession.
The portrait of Dr. Arthur Pue, painted in 1820, clearly establishes the beginning of Tilyard's mature style. His was a somewhat conservative Romantic style, with less flourish than his mentor Sully, but more fluency than the fastidious Rembrandt Peale, similar to his contempories John Wesley Jarvis and Charles Bird King.
Tilyard's portraits of the 1820's confirm his high technical and stylistic achievements. The four portraits of Mr. and Mrs George Washington Waring, Mrs. John Cockey III, and her son Dr. John Paul Cockey exhibit his skill in portraying individual expressiveness, a key to the Romantic portraiture of mood. His "Charles Slade Tilyard","John Pendleton Kennedy", and "Colonel Samuel Coleman" illustrate the success with which he depicted the human face at all ages. Other likenesses executed during the decade promote Tilyard's technical capabilities and demonstrate the diversity of his commissions. Philip's three self portraits offer further insight into his proficiency as an artist and interpret his personality, pleasant, content, self-confident.
Beyond his paintings, supplementary documents, such as Tilyard's day book, letters, Robert Gilmore's diary, exhibition catalogues, city directories and records of his fees, amplify the success of this Baltimorean's art career. In addition, they place Tilyard within the context of his environment and provide an understanding about the state of the arts in the early nineteenth-century Baltimore.
Prior to his nineteenth birthday, William sailed for America, arriving in Baltimore on December 21, 1773. Neither his motivation for journeying to the British colonies of North America, nor his reason for settling in Baltimore are documented. Tilyard family papers and Baltimore history suggest that the city's active habor and strong Methodist population may have attracted the young man. On the eve of the Revolutionary War, when Tilyard disembarked in Baltimore, that country town was, emerging as a major commercial center. With the construction of better roads leading into the city, Baltimore merchants had monopolized frontier wheat exportation, and the Patapsco River Basin was alive with activity. The ship-building industry, for which Baltimore would become famous, had begun in earnest. Tradition indicates that William was a ship carpenter. Perhaps he had been trained in the river town of Norwich, and sought residency in a similar port on the western side of the Atlantic. This theory seems to be corroborated by William's earliest Baltimore addresses. His first recorded land deal was a lease for a lot on Lancaster Alley, several blocks north of the Basin and docks . A later newspaper advertisement announced that William was selling "... a valuable WATER LOT, in Queens Street, Fell's Point,...extending into the water, on which is a good wharf, and in front there is a commodious Dwelling House."
In addition, when William Tilyard's incentive for settling in Maryland is examined in the context of religious convictions, his choice of that particular colony at that particular time seems to be intentional. Methodism had a strong following in Maryland, having been established in Baltimore County as early as 1763, and by 1774, more than half the Methodists in America lived in that colony. Since subsequent documentation shows that William was a devoted Methodist, it is plausible that he established a home in Baltimore for the comfort of living in a compatible religious community.
Within five years of his arrival in America, William had married and started a family. In 1778, he wed Mary Connor (1761 - 1852), who had emigrated from Larne, North Ireland, with her whole family. Mary gave birth to three children in 1778, 1781, and 1783, respectively, but all had died by the time that Philip was born in 1785. During the weeks preceding his birth, Baltimore was the scene of the most celebrated event in American Methodism. At the famous Christmas Conference, The Methodist Episcopal Church was formally organized, and Thomas Coke, John Wesley's fellow presbyter, ordained Francis Asbury as the bishop to preside over the Methodist Church in America. Surely this monumental event had a profound effect on William and Mary Tilyard. When Philip Thomas Coke Tilyard was born a week later, he was named in honor of the prominent English Methodist. On February 27th of the same year, Philip was baptized by Bishop Thomas Coke. Presumably the boy grew up under the fundamentalist doctrines. Two books in William's estate inventory entitled "Methodist Discipline" seem to corroborate this theory. Thus Philip's moral attitudes would have been shaped by the principles of religious zeal, political apathy, pacifism, anti-slavery, and the belief that affluence was an enemy of godliness.
About two years after Philip's birth, William established his residence in upper Water Street, which was a move from Fell's Point, a transient, Basin orientated society, to Baltimore City proper, the mercantile, financial, professional, and social centre. William's first recorded advertisement as a painter and glazier appeared in 1794, when he announced specialities in house painting and glazing as well as sign lettering and gilding. Significantly, the account proclaimed that the elder Tilyard had been engaged as a painter and glazier "hitherto" and that he had just returned from England, where he had bought "...a quantity of almost every article used in his profession". Perhaps William's physical relocation also indicated a change in occupation from ship carpenter to a painter.
Philip was raised in a middle class, artisan-orientated household and "...began by painting signs in his father's paint store". William Tilyard's paint store is suggested by his offer to sell "...a quantity of white led (sic) ground in oil, by the keg or smaller quantity" in 1794, and by his estate inventory which listed barrels of paint, jugs and kegs of oil. Under his father's guidance, Philip must have learned to paint houses as well as signs, because an 1804 advertisement announced the formation of the firm of Tilyard and Son, house and sign painters.
Less than two years later, on May 21, 1806, the elder Tilyard died and bequeathed equal shares of his lots on Water Street and Public Alley to his wife Mary and to Philip. The remainder of William's property was devised between his seven children, to be held by their mother until they reached maturity. Though William's will did not specifically bequeath his painting equipment to his eldest son, the two men had already formed a partnership in the painting business. Also, Philip has passed his twenty-first birthday by the time his father died, and so, was legally eligible to receive one-seventh of William's possessions. Presumably, Philip's share of the estate included the painting equipment, and also, he may have acquired the paint store through the division of his father's real estate.
During the initial five or six years following his father's death, Philip continued in the elder Tilyard's trade and maintained his residence at the family home in Water Street. Within a few months the "Federal Gazette" announced the partnership of Hand and Tilyard at the same Charles Street address. It is unclear how Tilyard made Moses Hand's acquaintance. Both were Methodists and a common church may have brought them together. Also Hand conducted a drawing academy for young ladies and gentlemen, which advertised lessons in drawing and painting in watercolours; perhaps Philip attended this academy. The new firm advertised a wide variety of capabilities, including, house, sign and ornamental painting as well as glazing and gilding. However, the partnership only survived one year, and a May 1808 newspaper announced its dissolution. in 1809, Philip moved his painting establishment from 3 North Charles Street to number 6 and was variously advertised as a sign painter or painter and glazier over the next few years.
Between 1810 and 1814 Philip's life underwent several changes. In the earlier year, Thomas Sully, the renowned Philadelphia artist, paid Tilyard a visit and advised him about painting. In 1812, Philip had moved his dwelling from Water Street to 3 Saratoga Street and was allied with his brother William, in the business of sign and ornamental painting. Philip's engagement as an ornamental painter is amplified by a quote from his granddaughter, in which she said that he "...also did decorative work on fine coaches". In 1814, Philip made the most dramatic step of his painting career. That year's city directorie advertised him for the first time as a portrait painter. In taking this step, Tilyard emerged from the ranks of an artisan-craftsman to the status of an artist, a profession which demanded a higher degree of skill than house, sign, or ornamental painting and undoubtedly provided a better income and more prestige. The year 1814 also marked the opening of Rembrandt Peale's Baltimore Museum and Picture Gallery, which he announced as a "...rendez-vous for taste, curiosity and leisure". At the same time, Philip Tilyard located his portrait rooms at 5 Saratoga Street, next door to his residence and just around the corner from Peale's new gallery. In doing so, he physically placed himself in the art center of Baltimore.
With this move, Philip left the 6 North Charles Street establishment to his two younger brothers William and James, who continued at that address for another five to seven years, while advertising alternately as painters and sign painters. For the eight years starting in 1822, when John Wesley Tilyard joined the trade, Philip's three brothers were listed singly or together as sign and house painters or as ornamental painters. During this same sixteen year period, with the exception of a brief commercial venture, Philip remained independent and advertised himself as a portrait painter, with only one listing as a letterer. It is significant that four of the five Tilyard brothers were painters of some kind, but even more significant that Philip was the only one who ever advertised as a portrait painter. He alone elevated himself to a profession in the fine arts.
During Philip's thirtieth year, the Chesapeake region and Baltimore harbor became embroiled in the War of 1812. The British invasion seriously threatened the American Navy, which was largely supplied with Baltimore-built vessels, and also endangered the city's chief industry. Repulsion of the enemy at Baltimore was key to America's victory. Patriotism ran strong, and it is not surprising to find that men of all occupations fought side by side in the defense of their city. Philip's name appeared as the third sergeant of the First Regiment of Artillery in the Washington Artillery of the Maryland Militia, serving at the Battles of North Point and Fort McHenry on September 12th and 13th , 1814.
During the second decade of the nineteenth century, Philip did not pursue portrait painting to the exclusion of other commercial interests. A city deed for July 5, 1815, showed that Tilyard paid $600.00 and a yearly rent of $28.75 to be paid by Morton to Shipley. During the early nineteenth century, Baltimore was expanding rapidly to the north and west. Mulberry Street, being to the northwest of the central business district, must have been a prime target area for speculation, of which Philip seems to have taken advantage.
At about the same time, according to William Dunlap's "History of the Arts of Design":
ticket, and was grieviously punished by
drawing a prize of $20.000. The possession
of this wealth induced him to enter into
commerce, and in a short time he was broke
failing for more than he was worth.
Reading through Dunlap's puritanical statement regarding punishment for winning large sums of money, one understands that the prize money, in addition to his $4,900.00 gain from speculation on Mulberry Street, motivated Philip to establish himself as a merchant. This placed him in the wealthiest professional group in Baltimore, in an era when trade had made Baltimore the largest commercial city in America after Boston and Philadelphia. the 1816 and 1817 directories listed Chase and Tilyard, dry goods store, 4 South Calvert Street. The address indicates that his firm was located just south of Baltimore (or Market) Street, which was "...the center of the city's mercantile activity [and] was the most important of the city's 130 streets and roads".
The first year of business, 1816, must have been a relatively steady one, because during the following winter Philip, aged thirty-two years, married Martha Moule (1795 - 1880). Abner Neal, minister of the Light Street Methodist Church, officiated at the ceremony on February 18, 1817. Martha was the daughter of Joseph Moule who had emigrated from Cambridgshire, England, and had been in partnership with his brother James as a dry goods or china merchant.
Unfortunately, Dunlap's report concerning the collapse of Philip Tilyard's financial affairs was accurate. His failure was not a punishment for winning at lottery as Dunlap intimated, rather Philip had chosen to embark on his mercantile venture during a slump in Baltimore's commercial rise. In addition, the Great Baltimore Deluge of August 1817 "extended...into Telyard's painting shop about 2 ft deep on the floor"--- a disaster that must have compounded his financial difficulties. The Rough Docket of insolvencies, 1817 - 1819, for the city of Baltimore showed that Philip Tilyard paid a fee of $15.00 to file bankruptcy in December 1817.
Although Philip had seemed anxious to elevate his financial position by favouring commerce over painting, there is evidence, beyond the flood account, that he pursued his art career to a minor degree during the period between 1815 and 1817. With his failure as a merchant, Tilyard returned his concentration to his art career. In the "Federal Gazette" of March 14, 1818, an advertisement entitled "Battle Monument" requested that the names of heroes (who died during the British invasion of Baltimore in 1814) to be placed on the monument should be sent to Maximillian Godefroy. It also announced that subscriptions could be made at Peale's Museum and at "P. Tilyard's, letter in general, near the city spring," among other places. Robert L. Alexander, author of The Architecture of Maximillian Godefroy", indicated that, "Philip Tilyard, working from August to October [1818, was paid $186, probably for bronzing the interior and exterior decorations" of the monument. other documentary evidence established that Tilyard also returned his professional attentions to portrait painting. In a letter to William Dunlap, the artist Thomas Sully stated:
his failure, visited him. He [Hoffman] did
not know him [Tilyard], as his business had
been transacted by his partner. Tilyard
reminded Hoffman of the loss his failure
had occasioned him, and said the object of
his visit was to request Mr, Hoffman to
permit him to paint portraits for him to
the amount of the debt. He thus relieved
his mind and made a friend of Hoffman, who
employed him and paid him.
The year 1820 marks the beginning of the decade of Philip's steady work as a portrait artist. A signed and dated portrait painted in 1820 establishes Tilyard's competency at the commencement of the period, while other documented examples attest to his proficiency throughout the period. Although he was listed specifically as a portrait painter in all four of the directories which appeared during that decade, other documents prove that Tilyard's artistic career was varied. A quote from a September 1822 newspaper revealed that:
[a] very beautiful and interesting view
of [an] elevation of [the] statue of Baltimore
at [the] moment when suspended over
the monument; including military groups,
assembled officers and other citizens; showing
[the] east front of [the] courthouse,
houses of James Buchanan, Hollins, Smith,
McMachen, Mechanics' Bank and other buildings;
it would be engraved and colored in
handsome style, and delivered at low cost
A month later, a city register account for the Battle Monument cryptically stated: "Oct. 4 P. Tilyard $60". No doubt the city had contracted Philip Tilyard to take the view of the monument for a fee of $60.00. In 1823 and 1824, two letters written by Tilyard to his family from Frederick, Maryland, and Washington , D. C., respectively, show that Philip had commissions outside of Baltimore. His directory listing of the latter year advertised sign painting as well as portraiture and intimates that, although his main emphasis, he supplemented his income by painting signs. This was true throughout his career and typical of many artists during Tilyard's era. His address on Baltimore Street in 1824, together with a business card in the collections of the Maryland Historical Society, reveals he also operated a drawing academy at the time. Although nothing is known about the academy, it is obvious that Tilyard used it to supplement his earnings in still another way.
John Pendleton Kennedy, 1825
Little is known of Tilyard's career during the years 1825 and 1826. In the former year, his portrait of Mr. T. Emory was exhibited at Peale's Museum in Holliday Street, which by then was one of the three major attractions of Baltimore, along with the Cathedral and the Exchange. His "John Pendleton Kennedy" was executed in the same year and may be used as a reference. The likeness of Colonel Samuel Coleman of Virginia, signed and dated "Tilyard 1826," lends credence to Philip's granddaughter's statement that he painted portraits in Richmond, Virginia.
The period from 1827 to 1828 is a well-documented era in Philip Tilyard's career. His "Engagements with sitters" covered approximately eleven months of the two-year period. It listed many prominent Baltimore residents who called on Tilyard or engaged his services; among them were John Pendleton Kennedy, Virgil Maxcy, Robert Oliver, General George H. Steuart, and Robert Gilmor, Jr., who brought his niece to have her portrait painted. Tilyard's day book also noted that he continued to paint signs and that he copied portraits. Another manuscript source discloses that Robert Gilmor, the renowned art collector and connoisseur, took Colonel John Trumbull to Tilyard's studio to appraise the younger artist's work and indicated that Trumbull was favorably impressed. Later, on October 31, 1827, the city government commissioned Tilyard to paint a posthumous likeness of Colonel john Eager Howard, a Revolutionary War hero and Maryland stateman. Philip used Rembrandt Peale's portrait of the late Colonel as a model and finished the picture in february of 1828, when he was paid $100.00, frame included.
Throughout the decade of the 1820's Philip Tilyard's private life seems to have been stable. His home address 76 North Charles Street remained the same. He and his wife produced five children: Charles Slade in 1820, Catherine Ann in 1823, Alfred Hook in 1825, Michael Angelo in 1827, and Philip Thomas in 1829. The United States Census taken in 1830 illustrates that Philip's burden of support was great and may have created financial difficulties. His household was comprised of five children under the age of ten years, four females between the ages of twenty and sixty, and a free colored female, besides himself, for a total of eleven people.
On December 21, 1830, in his forty-sixth year, Philip Thomas Coke Tilyard died after a lingering illness. Friends were invited to attend the funeral from his late dwelling at 10 o'clock, December 22. In his "History of the Arts of Design", Dunlap quoted Sully as saying " a few years before his death he lost his reason," to which Dunlap added; "The worldling will say he was always mad". Robert Gilmor reported that: "He attained considerable excellence as a portrait painter, but died poor and insane; from dwelling too much on his situation, and the difficulty of supporting his family by his pencil". Contemporary documents demonstrate that these comments were more exaggerated and romantic than they were realistic.
Regarding Philip's lingering illness and insanity, William Steuart's 1834 letter revealed that the nature of Tilyard's condition had interuppted his painting. About 1828, "...his health became so infirm that he was rendered incapable of performing his contract..." to paint a second portrait of Colonel Howard, and was "...unwilling to relinquish his participation in this public work...". The author believes that Philip was determined to overcome the handicap of his illness by striving to complete the assigned task. In being unwilling to relinquish this duty, he may well have appeared to have "lost his reason" or to have been excessively stubborn. Family tradition explains that Tilyard died of typhoid fever. Typhoid is not a lingering illness, but Philip may have succumbed to the fever because of his previous infirmities, and it may have made him delirious. So, Gilmor may well have been correct when he said that Tilyard died insane, but Dunlap's remark that "he was always mad" was undoubtedly an exaggeration.
After Philip Tilyard's death, his wife Martha operated a store on Lexington Street in the 1830's. During the next decades, she was listed as a tutoress and advertised "Mrs. Tilyard's seminary for children". Philip's sons embarked on different careers. Charles was a druggist, Alfred a clerk, Philip Junior a bank teller and conveyancer, and Angelo's profession is not known. None of them appeared to have pursued careers in painting. Their ages of 10, 5, 3, and 1, in the year Tilyard died, give rise to the supposition that they did not have the opportunity to learn the trade from their father as Philip had.
Special thanks to Peter Breeze of Billericay, Essex, England who had the patience and resolve to type up this entire article from a photocopy of the original.