Osbert Burr Loomis

Account Book, 1835

Osbert graduated from Yale in 1835 and in October of that year moved to New York to study art for nine months with noted painter Samuel F. B. Morse. In the account book pictured here, Osbert recorded his early purchases of art supplies: crayons and paper. Along with learning art techniques, Osbert witnessed history in the making. Years later, he gave a deposition stating that Morse’s telegraphy “apparatus” appeared in the studio around November 1835.

Jeannette Hart Jarvis Loomis (1816-1897)

Osbert married Middletown, CT native Jeannette Hart Jarvis in 1843. A year later, they moved to Havana, Cuba where Osbert worked as a merchant and an artist. While Osbert depicted his wife in this undated portrait as an artist, no paintings by her have come to light. It’s possible they shared in painters’ sojourns to the countryside of Cuba and to the White Mountains of New Hampshire.

Portrait of a Scribe, Havana, Cuba, c. 1844-1862

Osbert described himself as the “most esteemed portrait painter in Havana” but his portfolio included far more than portraits. His extraordinary range of artistic expression can be found in still lifes and romanticized landscapes as well altarpieces for chapels and churches on the island of Cuba and in the American South. This portrait was done in Havana and is evidence of the global culture and trade routes that influences Osbert’s life and career while in Cuba.

European Travels, 1871-1872
Osbert travelled from his home in Yonkers, NY to Europe in 1871 and 1872. In the tradition of an artist’s Grand Tour, Osbert visited archaeological sites, private art collections in cities and the country, and places of great natural beauty. His hometown newspaper reported on his February 1872 return to New York, and Osbert narrated his activities and encounters in a detailed travel journal. He completed this painting in Italy during his travels.

Photograph, c. 1850-1870
Innovation intrigued Osbert throughout his career. He experimented with early photography, most likely producing portrait daguerreotypes. Osbert also received a patent for a rotary butter churn in 1851. While it seems unusual for a city dweller to have designed a butter churn, Osbert would have observed at-home buttermaking during his Connecticut childhood. When his father died in 1862, Osbert’s mother was guaranteed, through a probated widow’s share, the use of specific livestock, including one milk cow.

Program, 1883

Osbert attributed great significance to his own family’s heritage and like many Americans of his time, he participated in events celebrating the nation’s history. In 1876, Osbert joined Windsor’s “Centennial Celebration of the Anniversary of our Independence” offering a toast to Connecticut’s “system of common school education.” He attended the unveiling of a statue of George Washington, writing on the paper program, “I was… within a marble’s toss from Governor [Grover] Cleveland and President [Chester] Arthur.”