Josiah Kilburn Burrage (1804-1880)
William Matthew Prior (1806–1873)
Boston or Cambridge, Massachusetts, c.1846
Water-based media on board
22 ¼ x 18 in.
Museum purchase with funds provided by an anonymous gift
Portrait painter William Matthew Prior established an unusual business model. Instead of competing for the limited number of sitters who could afford a top-of-the-line portrait, he linked the style of a portrait to the sitter’s ability to pay. He produced fully realized portraits with shaping and shadow, a middling range with simpler lines, and at the lowest level, paintings he described as “flat.” These could be completed in an hour’s sitting. This portrait of lumber merchant Josiah Burrage of Cambridge is an example of Prior’s flat style.