Thumbnail image for Portrait of a Naval OfficerThumbnail image for Portrait of a Naval Officer
Portrait of a Naval Officer

Portrait of a Naval Officer

John Wollaston

An item at Art Institute of Chicago

Born in England, John Wollaston received some training in painting in London, likely from his father, a portraitist, and perhaps from another artist there. Wollaston practiced portraiture in the 1730s, executing accomplished likenesses in the following decade. Arriving in the American colonies in 1749, the artist worked along the Atlantic Seaboard for ten years, bringing fashionable English portraiture to eager American patrons before leaving to assume a post with the British East India Company. Portrait of a Naval Officer is an example of Wollaston's skillful—and much sought after —portraiture, depicting a mid-8th-century gentleman in a blue uniform, white waistcoat, and gold braiding. The officer's command of a telescope and the ship behind him signal his professional success.

Americas in the Making

An exhibit at Art Institute of Chicago

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These galleries present dynamic and wide-ranging art forms made in the Americas, where artists have been at work since time immemorial. The region now known as Chicago has long been a vibrant center of Native artistic practices, including those of Ojibwe, Odawa, and Potawatomi nations. European settler colonialism and the development of the metropolis-including our museum's founding in 1879-introduced global art forms. Together, these local histories shape the collections we steward today, which encompass diverse makers, objects, and styles spanning centuries and continents, from North to South America and the Caribbean. The works here offer layered stories of the Americas in the making. Created for a variety of purposes-from aesthetic to ceremonial to practical —they have the power to evoke a range of emotions and responses. Complex factors impacted their making, including displacement and immigration, enslavement, global trade, and indus-trialization. As a result, they offer insights across eras while inviting reinterpretation in our moment. Just as artistic traditions are continually made and remade, so, too, are our efforts to present them. Today you can find selections of the many histories of art in the Americas on this floor and the floor above, in tandem with Gallery 136, a dedicated space for celebrating Indigenous art.