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James Sharples Sr.
Date: 1751–1811
James Sharples
Remarks: Sharples first exhibited at the London Royal Academy of Arts in 1787 and then came to the U.S. in 1794, intending to create a collection of profiles of famous Americans. At the time, profile portraits—thought to derive from classical models—were in great demand. Artists, including those who mastered the mechanical physiognotrace, produced profiles swiftly and inexpensively. Sharples responded to this vogue in a singular manner, working almost exclusively in colored pastels often applied with a brush. He also enlisted his wife Ellen Wallace and three children in his profitable portrait business. No works by the Sharples family are signed, making attributions difficult. Working mainly in Philadelphia and New York, the family developed a prolific industry in the profile genre. The Historical Society holds fourteen Sharples pastels, including eleven attributed to James Sr.