Born the son of an architect in 1812, Charles L. Elliott’s artistic talent was not allowed to blossom until he reached adulthood. His father, "did not encourage the boy’s artistic ambitions and placed him as a clerk in a store" (J. Holt). In 1829, Elliott's father finally relented and allowed Charles to travel to New York City, where he would study to become a painter. In New York, he worked under the guidance of John Trumbull for a brief time before working for six months in the studio of John Quidor. With his short training complete, Elliott left New York City and "worked for the next ten years as an itinerant portrait artist in central and western New York State, particularly the town of Skaneateles." During this time, he also "experimented with literary genre and landscape" ("Charles Loring Elliott").
In 1839, Elliott returned to New York City where he would open in his own studio in 1845 and set himself up as a portrait artist. That same year, he was elected as an associate member of the National Academy of Design. During this time, he received accolades for his portrait of Ericsson, which was "being called the best American portrait since the time of Stuart" ("Charles Loring Elliot"; J. Holt). It was also during this time that Elliott would have encountered individuals associated with Pfaff's, though the exact level of connection to the group of Bohemians remains unclear. A. L. Rawson identifies Elliott as a Pfaffian and contends that he "was the best portrait painter of that time. A pupil of Gilbert Stuart, who painted the only really popular likeness of George Washington, he was said to have many of the fine qualities of the master, and also many of his own" (103). Scholar Mark Lause also suggests that Elliott was one of the several artists associated with Pfaff's (62). J. C. Derby judges Elliott’s painting of Fletcher Harper to be “as near a perfect representation of the human face as was ever produced by a portrait painter" (643). Elliott also created a portrait of Fitz-Greene Halleck. His association with various Pfaffians is uncertain, but he is linked to Ada Clare, and he may have attended some of her parties at her 42nd Street home (Rawson 103; Lause 63).
Shortly before his death in 1868, Chales Loring Elliott moved to Albany for unknown reasons. He died there from brain cancer several months after moving. After his death, his body was returned to New York City where "where his artist-friends organized an impressive funeral cortege, a ceremonial lying-in-state at the National Academy, and a memorial exhibition of some three dozen of his portraits to honor his achievements" ("Charles Loring Elliott"; "Funeral of Charles Loring Elliott").
Elliot's work is included in Frederick S. Cozzens's first published volume of prose and verse sketches (539).
Derby writes that Elliot's "portriat of Fletcher Harper is believed to be as near a perfect representation of the human face as was ever produced by a portrait painter." Derby relates an anedote about Elliot told by Robert S. Chilton that Chilton feels shows "a strong trait of his amiable character -- a disposition to encourage young and struggling members of his profession -- and being highly comic withal, is oneof the funniest, and as I happen to know, founded on fact" p. 643-644 (643).[pages:539,640,643-644]
A member of Clare's coterie of Bohemians. He was a "portrait painter" (103).[pages:103]
Appleton claims that Elliott is to have painted over 700 portraits of the predominant figures of the era.[pages:329(ill.)]
Charles Loring Elliott
SOURCE: Wilson, James Grant and John Fiske. Appletons’ Cyclopaedia of American Biography, Volume II. New York: D. Appleton & Co., 1888.
The Vault at Pfaff's
27 Memorial Drive West, Bethlehem, PA 18015