About This Artwork

Jonas Welch Holman
American, 1805–1873

Woman with a Book, c. 1827/30

Oil on yellow poplar panel
70.8 x 54.6 cm (27 7/8 x 21 1/2 in.)

Gift of Robert Allerton, 1946.393

Jonas Holman worked as a portrait painter, writer, doctor, and preacher, supporting himself through these vocations as he traveled among Baptist congregations. By 1827 he had made his way to Philadelphia where he painted seven known portraits, among them Woman with a Book and Man with a Pen. In these works Holman substituted a brilliant, tasseled curtain for a plain background. He showed his sitters in painted "fancy" chairs, with broad, Greek Revival crest rails, similar to painted furniture made in Philadelphia or Baltimore. Like Ammi Phillips, Holman used props that pointed to the sitters' erudition; he also concentrated on the details of his sitters' costumes, showing women with rings and earrings and men with stickpins fastened to cravats.

Exhibition, Publication and Ownership Histories

Exhibition History

Milwaukee Art Institute, "American Primitive Art, 1750-1950," February 23-March 25, 1951, no. 28.

Chicago, Carson Pirie Scott & Co.: window display, April 14-30, 1952.

Chicago, Charles A. Stevens Store, March 27-May 27, 1956.

Publication History

Judith A. Barter and Monica Obniski, "For Kith and Kin: The Folk Art Collection at the Art Institute of Chicago," (Art Institute of Chicago/Yale University Press, 2012) no. 26.

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