In 1807 the young Thomas
Sully met Gilbert Stuart in Boston and received encouragement from
the famous older portrait painter. Like Stuart and members of the
Peale family, the self-taught Sully became a preeminent American
portraitist. His portrait of Lord David Montague Erskine
(1776-1855) was commissioned in 1830, along with a portrait of
Frances Cadwalader of Philadelphia, by General Thomas Cadwalader.
General Cadwalader was Erskine's brother-in-law, and Frances was
his first wife. The portrait of Lord Erskine, who was secretary
to the British Legation and British Minister to Washington,
remained in the Cadwalader family until 1921.
Sully embraced Stuart's
interest in classical styles and in the sweet, sentimentality of
late Rococo painting in early 19th century England. Sully,
however, favored pretty colors and opaque and glossy surfaces.
Like Stuart, his subjects appear heroic in aspect, and his
portraits evince a sense of purpose and occasion.