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date: 03 March 2024

Feke, Robert (c.1707–51 or later). Painter 

The Oxford Dictionary of American Art and Artists

Ann Lee Morgan

Among colonial artists, only John Singleton *Copley surpassed his accomplishments as a portraitist. Sumptuously rendered fashion, graceful poses, and atmospheric settings reflect his clients’ success and refinement. Although anatomical stiffness, linear definition of form, and a tendency to generalize faces linger in even in his most integrated works, Feke struck a new note in colonial art: pleasure as a key ingredient in his work. No other native-born painter of his time possessed his feel for the sensuous quality of paint, his ability to deploy rich color harmonies, nor his indulgence in tactile experience. His light palette, emphasizing pastels and silvery tones, and his discrimination among the surfaces of expensive textiles, such as satin and velvet, appealed to younger, style-conscious colonists. Rejecting the pompous seriousness of late Baroque taste, his sitters appear at ease with themselves and their prosperity. Many of Feke’s portraits are set against feathery landscape backgrounds that contribute idyllic notes and suggest the landed wealth of sitters. How Feke developed into an artist of such sensitivity and distinction remains obscure. Made plausible by a family tradition that held he was a mariner, the conjecture that Feke traveled abroad at some point in his early career has been offered, but no substantiating evidence has been found.... ...

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