Lot 423: Attributed to James Guy Evans
December 3, 2016
New Orleans, LA, USALive Auction
Description: Attributed to James Guy Evans (American/New Orleans, 1809-c. 1859, act. 1835-1859), "U.S. Treasury Schooner Whig", 1848, oil on canvas, unsigned and inscribed "Presented to Hon. Henry Clay by his Friend Capt. William Jones" lower margin, "Prepared by Edward Dechaux, New York" canvas stamp en verso, 25 in. x 30 in., period gilt frame. Exh.: Ashland, The Henry Clay Estate, Lexington, KY, 2003. Note: Biographical information about James Guy Evans has always been scarce. Previously thought to have been born in England in 1810, United States Marine Corps records show that Evans was born in New York in 1809. Evans joined the Marine Corps as a young man and traveled throughout the Mediterranean area, including the island of Minorca, where he married his first wife, Ana. The couple had a son c. 1836 and after a brief stint in Cuba, Evans moved to Mobile, Alabama; two daughters were born c. 1837 and 1839, either in Alabama or Cuba. A Mobile marriage license indicates that Evans married a second time in 1842 to Frances Pennington, and 1850 census records show them living in New Orleans with two more daughters born c. 1843 and 1848 in that city. As a maritime painter, it is not surprising that Evans traveled often between Cuba, Mobile, and New Orleans. Evans established a brief partnership with fellow artist Edward Everard Arnold in New Orleans. He often painted ships at port or arriving in the city at the Balize, an old fort and landmark at the mouth of the Mississippi River, as shown in the two masterworks, "Tow Boat Conqueror of New Orleans, Capt. John Heaton, Coming up from the Balize, October 29th, 1847," and "Arrival of Gen. Z. Taylor & Staff at Balize on the U. S. Steam Ship Monmouth, B. T. Willse Commander / November 30th 1847, sold in these rooms in November 2010 and November 2011, respectively. Captain William Jones of Raleigh, North Carolina, an ardent admirer of fellow Whig Henry Clay, disembarked at the Port of New Orleans from Vera Cruz, Mexico in the first half of 1848 on the Schooner Whig. Upon arrival, he commissioned James Guy Evans to paint a likeness of the ship, which Jones then sent as a gift to Henry Clay at his home, Ashland, in Lexington, Kentucky. Clay, a prominent lawyer and politician, helped found the Whig party and exemplified all of its best qualities, which particularly appealed to Captain Jones. The letter accompanying the painting still exists; in it, Jones speaks of his ardent admiration both personally and politically of Clay, and praises the ships beauty of model, fleetness, and good sea qualities generally. In the postscript, Jones proclaims a desire to know Clays thoughts about the recent Whig party nomination of Zachary Taylor for presidential candidate. Taylor, popular from his part in defending Texas during the Mexican-American War, won the election in 1848 and became the twelfth president of the United States. Aboard the ship Monmouth, Taylor was also a subject of an Evans painting in 1847. In 2003, when the Whig painting, with its inscription indicating it was a gift to Henry Clay, was re-discovered in Boston, it was revealed that the letter from Jones to Clay, which originally accompanied the painting, was published in a book of Clays papers. The painting and the letter (which was in a family collection) were subsequently reunited and exhibited at Ashland, the Henry Clay Estate, in Lexington, Kentucky. Ref.: Brooks, Eric. Curators Comments. Ashland The Henry Clay Estate Newsletter, p. 5; John Mahé et al., Encyclopædia of New Orleans Artists, Historic New Orleans Collection, 1987, p. 129; United States Federal Census, 1850; Mobile, Alabama Marriage Records, 1816-1942; United States Marine Corps enlistment papers for James Evans, July 29, 1830.