Hesselius, Gustavus(hĕsē`lēəs), 1682–1755, American portrait painter, b. Sweden, settled c.1712 in Philadelphia. He was the earliest portrait painter and organ builder in the United States. His Last Supper (1721–22) for St. Barnabas Church in Prince Georges co., Md., was the first recorded public commission awarded an artist in the United States. Hesselius's portraits of himself and his wife (c.1740) are owned by the Pennsylvania Historical Society. In later life he was assisted by his son, John Hesselius, 1728–78, who later settled in Maryland and painted more than a hundred portraits of Southern and Philadelphia families. He was an early instructor of Charles Willson Peale.
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Hesselius, Gustavus(1682–1755) painter; born in Falun, Sweden. He emigrated to an American colony on the Delaware River (1711), and was an important religious and secular painter. His sympathetic and dignified portraits of American Indians, such as Chief Lapowinska (1735) and Chief Tishcohan (1735), have ensured his reputation.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.