(b. 1751, Shrewsbury, d. 1801, Bolton)
Oil on canvas, 211 x 130 cm
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Ralph Earl was one of the foremost American painters of the late 18th century. Elijah Boardman was a prosperous textile merchant who fought in the Revolutionary War and eventually became a United States senator. Earl has provided clues to the background and personality of the sitter by posing him in a room of his dry-goods store at a stand-up desk and bookcase. The horizontal and vertical patterns created by the bolts of cloth and the books enliven the picture. This and other Connecticut portraits represent the finest period of Earl's work, blending a straightforward realism with the polished grace that the artist acquired during his years abroad.