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textAccount book of artist Junius Brutus Stearns (1810–1885)
Pages watermarked Street & Co./1830;
original vellum-bound cover inscribed J. Stearns
12 1/2 x 8 inches
Courtesy of James L. Kochan Fine Art & Antiques

Under the careful hands of a paper conservator, the long-lost ledger of historical painter Junius Brutus Stearns has reemerged after being buried beneath the pasted clippings of a later scrapbook. Stearns, best known for his famous series of paintings chronicling the life of George Washington and other important events in early American history, was also a painter of portraits and genre scenes. A student at the National Academy of Design in the early 1830s, Stearns was elected an Associate in 1848, named an Academician the following year, and later served as its recording secretary from 1851–1865. Very little was known, however, about Stearns’s early career until the discovery of this important manuscript volume.

Among the objects sold from the Stearns estate was a seemingly mundane, vellum-bound folio containing poetry, prose, and curiosities clipped from Civil War-era literary magazines and newspapers. This scrapbook included items written by or about Stearns family members. Removing and preserving the clippings revealed for the first time the artist’s careful annotations listing commissions and sales for the period of 1838–1843, when he was working in New York City. Recorded are portraits listed by sitter, titles or subjects of other works, fees paid, and other details critical to today’s art historian and collector.

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