Erastus Salisbury Field:
American painter. He studied with Samuel F. B. Morse in New York during the winter of 1824-5. On his return to the rural isolation of Leverett, MA, he painted his earliest known work, the portrait of his grandmother Elizabeth Billings Ashley (Springfield, MA, Mus. F.A.). His career as an itinerant portrait painter began in 1826, most of his commissions coming through a network of family associations in western Massachusetts and Connecticut. The portraits of 1836-40 are considered his best. From 1841 he lived mainly in New York, where he expanded his subject-matter to include landscapes and American history pictures. There he presumably studied photography, for on his return to Massachusetts he advertised himself as a daguerreotypist. His few portraits painted after 1841 are copied from his own photographs and lack the expressive characterization and decorative power of his earlier work. From 1865 to 1885 his paintings were based primarily on biblical and patriotic themes. The Historical Monument of the American Republic (1867-88; Springfield, MA, Mus. F.A.) stands alone in American folk art in size (2.82*3.89 m), scope and imaginative vision. Inspired by plans for a national celebration of the centennial of the USA in 1876, Field painted an architectural fantasy of eight towers linked by railway bridges and trains at the tops, with the history of the USA in low-relief sculpture on the exterior surfaces of the towers. Field added two more towers to the painting in 1888 and thereafter retired.
Historic Monument of the American Republic