Henry Davis

Portrait of Rev. Henry Davis.

Subject: Henry Davis
Date of Birth: 1771
Date of Death: March 8, 1852
Artist: Charles Loring Elliott
Location: Bristol Center, 2nd floor, Dwight Lounge

Sitter: Henry Davis was born in East Hampton in 1771. He graduated from Yale College in 1796 and married Hannah Phoenix Treadwell on September 22, 1801. From 1806 to 1809, he was a Professor of Greek at Union College. Following this appointment, Henry Davis accepted the offer to serve as the President of Middlebury College from 1809 to 1817. In 1817, Henry Davis became in the President of Hamilton College and remained there until 1833. When he arrived, Davis determined the current administration to be overly lax in discipline. He stated the school’s primary issue was whether “our young gentlemen were to govern or to be governed.” Despite Davis’s best efforts, it would take multiple years to get the student body in line. The Class of 1842 is remembered for herding 120 sheep and 16 mules into the chapel as part of an elaborate prank. However, Davis was undeterred, and he served as a Trustee of Hamilton College from 1817 through 1847. Davis died on March 8, 1852.

Artist: Charles Loring Elliott was a portrait painter from Central New York. Born in Scipio, NY in 1812, Elliott spent most of his childhood in Syracuse and dedicated his time to various crafts, including sketching and oil painting. After graduating high school, he studied painting with John Trumbull, who was the president of the New York Academy of Fine Arts at the time, and then with John Quidor, a figure painter. In 1834, after spending two years in New York City, Elliott returned home to Central New York. After spending the next decade working as a portrait painter, Elliott began to gain recognition in the 1840s from other portraitists in the Syracuse and Rochester regions. By 1845, he returned to New York City and eventually established himself as one of the best portrait painters in the US, known for capturing likeness and portraying accuracy. Elliott was able to distinguish his works from other competitive portrait painters of the time through his clarity and the colorful pigments characteristic of his work. Elliott ultimately created over 700 portraits in his career, including countless portraits of Hamilton College faculty members, including President Simeon North, government officials, and New York State governors. In the 1860s, Elliott received many commissions from Albany, so he decided to move there. He spent the rest of his life in Albany until he passed away in 1868.

The Portrait at Hamilton: This portrait can be found on the second floor of the Bristol center in the Dwight Lounge. The portrait was completed in 1833, and measures 71.6 x 63.5 cm.

Brussel, Michael. “Object of the Week: Self Portrait by Charles Loring Elliott.” Everson Museum. January 8, 2019. Accessed May 11, 2019. https://www.everson.org/blog/object-week-self-portrait-charles-loring-elliott.

Isserman, Maurice. On the Hill:  A Bicentennial History of Hamilton College.

Portrait Collection. Ruth and Elmer Wellin Museum of Art. Hamilton College. Clinton, NY.

Hamilton College Archives. Hamilton College Burke Library. Clinton. NY

-CH, LH, & DQ