Abraham Woodside carte-de-visite – AA/PG Library

by Doug Litts

Abraham woodside sm Recto: Abraham Woodside (born Philadelphia, PA, 1819; died Philadelphia, PA,1853)

Verso: Carte-de-visite photographer: H. G. DeBurlo, Philadelphia, PA

Abraham Woodside was a prominent artist in Philadephia in the mid-nineteenth century. However, likely due to his death at the age of 34 at the height of his career, not much about his life is readily found. This carte-de-visite is from an alburm of American artists held by the Smithsonian American Art Museum/National Portrait Gallery Library.  Although this album includes many famous artists of the mid-nineteenth century, it also includes many artists that are not as well-known, such as Woodside.

Abraham Woodside was the younger son of John Archibald Woodside, Sr., who gained fame as one of the most acclaimed sign painters of the Federal period in Philadelphia, although he also painted still lifes and animals on canvas, a few of which survive today.  Abraham’s older brother John Archibald, Jr. was also an artist who was trained as a wood engraver. Abraham pursued painting and in 1844 he is listed as a portrait painter in the Phildelphia city directory. He opened a studio in the Art Union Building in Philadelphia and gained renown as a portrait and historical painter (Jackson 1933, 65).  After a fire in 1845, Woodside was one of a group of artists that reopened the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in 1847 (Weigley 1982, 344).  He exhibited at the Pennsylvania Academy as well as the Maryland Historical Society and the American Art Union. His life was cut short at the age of 34 dying, according to the New York Times, “from the effects of the heat.”—Doug Litts

Works cited:

Jackson, Joseph. “John A. Woodside: Philadelphia’s Glorified Sigh-Painter.”  The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 57, no. 1 (1933): 58-65.

Weigley, Russell F., ed.  Philadelphia: A 300 Year History.  New York: Norton, 1982.

12 thoughts on “Abraham Woodside carte-de-visite – AA/PG Library

  1. Gasoline

    Before i never had any idea about Mr. Abraham Woodside.Actually, i never know that there’s a person like him that was existing.Thanks to you and for this information about him.

  2. leisa swanson

    Father, John Archibald Woodside is my Great, Great, Great grandfather.. We have quite a few of his paintings.. I have a sketch of Abraham’s that he might have used for one of his known paintings.
    I am proud to have these ancestors.. There are still the “art” genetics in my family, but never so famous..

  3. Janet

    Thanks so much for your article and the works cited. I have been interested in Abraham because I bought a most beautiful ‘unknown’ painting – and after some detective work I found that it is by him, dated 1847 “Fair Student”. It was an ‘American Art Union prize”, number 373, 1848, to J.Husted, Elmira, New York. There is a lady seated reading a book. The details in the medieval room scene (e.g. stained glass window, tapestry cloth, pearls, lute, sun shining across the floor, folds on the silk dress) are staggering and remind me a little of the pre-raphaelite work Mariana (by Millais) but this is pre-Millais. I love it. The most well-known painting may be “Amanda Walter”, 1851 which is in the Capitol Building? Thanks again. Janet.


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