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John Wesley Jarvis

John Wesley Jarvis was as well-known for his eccentric personality and dress as he was for his talent as a portrait and landscape painter.

John Wesley Jarvis

Courtesy of The Historic New Orleans Collection

Portrait of Major General James Wilkinson. Jarvis, John Wesley (Artist)

Painter John Wesley Jarvis spent the first five years of his life in England under the care of his great-great uncle, John Wesley, the influential and colorful founder of Methodism. Jarvis was also well known for a colorful personality, and the combination of his artistic talent and flamboyant lifestyle resulted in an extremely successful New York portrait studio. Looking to extend his business, he left New York frequently on painting expeditions, including at least five winters spent in New Orleans between 1820 and 1834. Fellow New Orleans artist John James Audubon described Jarvis as “an Original, and a Craked [sic] man,” and as having once worn a large magnolia boutonniere with a young alligator nestled in the flowers. He suffered a stroke in New Orleans in early 1834 and returned to New York, partially paralyzed and unable to work, where he died in poverty six years later.