Henrietta de Beaulieu Dering widow of Robert Dering the fifth son of Sir Edward Dering, Baronet married the Reverend Gideon Johnston in Dublin Ireland in April of 1705. She was a single mother with two daughters when she married Reverend Johnston.
By 1707 she was living in Charles Town, South Carolina surrounded by poverty and illness. To supplement the family income Henrietta started producing small portraits of members of the wealthier families from her husband’s congregation. She used pastels and produced many portraits between 1707 and even a few as late as 1729.
She had brought the pastels with her from Ireland where she had learned to use them from following the paths of Edward Luttrell and Edmund Ashfield as they introduced Dublin to this new medium.
Her female subjects are often shown in chemises while the men are wearing street clothes. She would sign and date the back of each portrait.
She is quite possibly the first identified female portrait painter in the American colonies as well as the first to use pastels.
Henrietta's pastel supply began to dwindle while she lived in Charles Town and you will be able to see the difference in what she created in Ireland, South Carolina and again in New York once she had taken a trip back to Ireland and made a stop in France to purchase more pastels.
Join us this week as we look at America’s first pastels.