New Portrait of Patrick Henry Unveiled at Charter Day
On the day Emory & Henry College paused to to celebrate the 172nd anniversary of the granting of the College charter by the Commonwealth of Virginia, the College took a moment to honor one of its namesakes.
Artist Daniel Lynch of Denver, Colo. was hired to create a portrait of Patrick Henry, renowned patriot of the American revolution and the first governor of Virginia. The portrait serves as a companion piece to a recently restored portrait of the College’s other namesake, Bishop John Emory. Both portraits will be featured in the home of the college President.
In preparation for the Patrick Henry portrait, artist Daniel Lynch spent numerous hours researching the history of Henry images. What he found was little consistency in his likeness aside from the ever-present red cloak and white cravat (neckwear worn in a slipknot) found in most likenesses.
Lynch’s research found that the only surviving portrait done during the life of Patrick Henry was painted by Lawrence Sully in the form of a miniature watercolor on an ivory pendant. Sully’s brother, Thomas, painted a posthumous portrait of Henry in 1851. It was an idealized half-length portrait, casting Henry in a heroic light, which became the image that has made its mark on the popular imagination.
After Lynch compared the two brothers’ works, he felt the posthumous piece bore only a slight resemblance to the miniature. Thus, Lynch made the decision that his portrait of Patrick Henry would be a younger version of the miniature, painted to resemble the existing portrait of Bishop John Emory in both composition and age.
Lynch was able to find an unusually detailed written description of Henry's appearance in a book entitled, "The True Patrick Henry" by George Morgan. He used this description along with the Sully miniature to help fill in the missing visual pieces of Henry’s earlier life.
“I tried to imagine in my mind's eye the man Lawrence Sully saw and then paint his portrait in a realistic style,” Lynch said.
Patrick Henry is remembered for being the voice of the American Revolution and a fiery orator. Henry led the opposition to the Stamp Act of 1765 and is well remembered for his "Give me Liberty, or give me Death!" speech. In 1776, Henry was elected governor of Virginia. In total, Henry would serve five terms as governor of Virginia. It was this patriotic background that Lynch relied upon in posing his painting of Patrick Henry.
“I squared his face to the viewer and gave him a determined expression, while maintaining conventions suitable to a formal portrait,” says Lynch of the yet unveiled painting.
Jack Lynch helped his son Daniel unveil the portrait during the Charter Day ceremony. It was Daniels father and his grandmother, Rebecca "Becky" Lynch, who first talked to E&H President Rosalind Reichard and her husband, Don, about painting a portrait of Patrick Henry to accompany the recently restored portrait of Bishop Emory.
Daniel Lynch, who spent seven months painting the portrait, called the work a “labor of love.” He hopes this painting pays tribute to Patrick Henry, the College and the history of Virginia.
To see a more upclose picture of the Patrick Henry portrait, click on the image below.