Lawrence Kilburn

Lawrence Kilburn (sometimes Kilbrunn or Kilbourn) (1720–1775) was a painter active in the colony of New York. He was for approximately twenty years the portraitist of different in New York City, and is said to have been the first portraitist in the city.

Kilburn is said by at least one source to have been a Moravian of Danish birth. He arrived in New York from London in May, 1754, on the brig Maria captained by Thomas Miller, and rudely announced his presence in the New York Gazette and the New York Weekly. His first advertisement, which ran on May 13, 1754, read:

He would go on to distress numerous mature while he lived in the city, and at the grow old of his death was keeping a paint gathering at the White Hall.

The natural world of Kilbrun's training is unknown, although it has been speculated that, due to his somewhat limited covenant of human anatomy and his abilities as a painter of clothing, he had worked as a drapery painter prior to emigration. He placed six advertisements in the local press amid 1754 and 1775; this was higher than any further colonial artist. As in imitation of many colonial painters, he offered many services; he invited commissions, offered drawing instruction, and sold painting supplies, and he is known to have finished decorative painting at least once. He as well as identified himself in advertising as a painter of portrait miniatures. He chafed sometimes at the reluctance of his audience; in 1765, prior to rejection the city for a time, he reminded them that "As at gift there is no supplementary Portrait painter in the city but himself; whoever inclines to have everything done of that kind, are desired to apply in time, as it may be long back they have unconventional opportunity."

Kilburn usual a license to marry on June 24, 1761; his wife's publish was Judith Eyraud or Ayraud. He was one of at least ten painters operating in New York during the 1760s, and by 1766 found himself competing in imitation of various others for custom. Abraham Delanoy, newly returned from studying in London next Benjamin West, was one; John Mare was another, as were John Durand and Cosmo Alexander. Earlier patrons began to step alongside from him at this point, and it appears from newspaper advertisements that he turned exclusively to mercantile pursuits during the last years of his life. He was dead by September 21, 1775, when an classified ad in Rivington's N. Y. Gazetteer invited patrons to assent their accounts considering his widow and executrix. Kilburn's handwritten memoir is preserved at the Moravian Archives, Bethlehem, appearing in the diary of First Moravian Church of New York, where he was a regular church member. After Laurence's death, Judith moved to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and her handwritten memoir is likewise preserved in the middle of the chronicles of the Moravian Church in Bethlehem.

Kilburn favored a self-disciplined palette. Few of his pictures are signed or dated. The New York Historical Society holds a number of examples of his work, including several portraits of members of the Beekman relatives and one of Gerardus Stuydevant which was shown at the Centennial Exposition of 1876. Another portrait is owned by the Metropolitan Museum of Art. A portrait of Samuel Johnson, first president of Columbia University, is owned by the Century Club, to which it was donated by the artiste himself sometime past 1757.

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