Matthew Harris Jouett

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Matthew Harris Jouett, self-portrait

Matthew Harris Jouett (Mercer County, Kentucky, 22 April 1788 – Lexington, Kentucky, 10 August 1827) was a noted American portrait painter, famous for painting portraits including Thomas Jefferson, George Rogers Clark and Lafayette.

Personal life and career[edit]

Jouett was the son of Sallie Robards and Jack Jouett, a hero of the American Revolution; the elder Jouett sent his son to Transylvania University and encouraged him to study law, but Matthew spent much of his time painting. The frustrated father commented "I sent Matthew to college to make a gentleman of him, and he has turned out to be nothing but a damned sign painter."

Jouett served as a volunteer officer of the 28th Kentucky Infantry in the War of 1812 and was among the survivors of the River Raisin Massacre; the company payroll of $6000 disappeared during the slaughter. Jouett restored the missing funds to the militia, based on his earnings as a painter, he also painted portraits of his fellow soldiers from memory, including Hart and Colonel Allen.[1]

Matthew Harris Jouett married Margaret "Peggy" Henderson Allen of Lexington, Kentucky on May 25, 1812, they had nine children.[2] One of their sons was James Edward Jouett, a naval officer. James served with Admiral David Farragut and was immortalized in Farragut's famous quote "Damn the torpedoes! Four bells! Captain Drayton go ahead! Jouett full speed!"

Jouett was promoted to captain during the War of 1812. Afterwards, he studied portraiture and went to Boston to study with Gilbert Stuart in 1816, he painted in New Orleans from 1817 to 1827 during the winter season and was listed in the 1824 New Orleans Directory as a portrait painter working at 49 Canal Street.[3]

Portrait of Catherine Cornelia Prather

He was commissioned by the Kentucky legislature to paint a portrait of the Marquis de Lafayette. Jouett also painted Thomas Jefferson and the child Catherine Cornelia Prather, it wasn't until the 1893 Chicago World Fair, that his fame as a painter began. His paintings were greatly appreciated by the curators and the general public, his work is more collectible today than it was during his lifetime, and as such catches higher prices.[4] Jouett became one of the most highly esteemed portrait painters in the United States, honored with a major centenary exhibition at the Speed Museum in his home state.

Matthew Jouett is buried in Cave Hill Cemetery.


  1. ^ Pennington & Miles 2010, p. 172.
  2. ^ (uncredited), John (January 13, 2015) [First published 1992]. Kleber; Clark, Thomas D.; Harrison, Lowell H.; Klotter, James C. (eds.). The Encyclopedia of Louisville. University of Kentucky Press. pp. 481–482. ISBN 978-0813121000. Retrieved 27 July 2016.
  3. ^ Biennial Report of the Board of Curators of the Louisiana State Museum to His Excellency, the Governor and the General Assembly of the State of Louisiana. Louisiana State Museum. 1 January 1922. p. 35. Retrieved 28 July 2016.
  4. ^ Price, Samuel (1 January 1902). Old Master of the Bluegrass :Jouett, Bush, Grimes, Frazer, Morgan, Hart. Michigan: University of Michigan Library. p. 31. Retrieved 28 July 2016.


  • Encyclopedia of Kentucky. New York, New York: Somerset Publishers. 1987. pp. 151–152. ISBN 0-403-09981-1.
  • Floyd, William Barrow (1980). Matthew Harris Jouett: Portraitist of the Ante-Bellum South. Lexington: Transylvania Printing Company.
  • Mills, Sally. "Jouett, Matthew Harris." In Grove Art Online. Oxford Art Online, (accessed January 4, 2012; subscription required).
  • Pennington, Estill Curtis; Miles, Ellen G. (2010). Lessons in Likeness: Portrait Painters in Kentucky and the Ohio River Valley, 1802-1920. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky. pp. 172–173. ISBN 978-0-8131-2612-8. Retrieved July 27, 2016.
  • "Large Crowd Attends Opening Of Eighteenth Art Exhibit: Handsome Canvases To Be Catalogued To-day For Ten-day Reviewal". Louisville, Kentucky: Courier-Journal. April 17, 1915. p. 7. Attendance at the eighteenth exhibit of the Louisville Art Association . . . . Two portraits by Jouett, the famous Kentucky artist, are shown. One is of former Secretary of Commerce Nagel; the other is of a little girl, Katherine Prather, who afterwards became the wife of the Rev. Dr. Edward Humphrey; the portrait . . . is referred to by members of the Humphrey family as "Little Grandmother."
  • "Jouett Centenary: Portraits Shown at the Speed Museum". The Courier-Journal. February 26, 1928. p. 28. The 100th anniversary of Matthew Harris Jouett is being celebrated by an exhibition of his portraits loaned by the owners to the J.B.Speed Memorial Museum. . . . Among the portraits shown which are properties of Louisvillians are the following: . . . Self portrait of Matthew H. Jouett owned by Mr. E. S. Jouett. . . .Judge John McKinley owned by Judge A. P. Humphrey . . . .General George Rogers Clark, owned by the Filson Club. . . . Catherine Cornelia Prather, owned by Mrs. Lewis C. Humphrey . . . . Mrs. Matthew Harris Jouett owned by Mr. Richard F. Menefee . . . . The Jouett Home owned by Mr. Richard H. Menefee . . . . There are three portraits of George Washington by Gilbert Stuart owned by the Filson Club.
  • "SIRIS - Smithsonian Institution Research Information System".

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