Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
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MALBONE, Edward Greene, artist, born in Newport, Rhode Island, in August, 1777; died in Savannah, Georgia, 7 May, 1807. He was an illegitimate son of John Malbone, and was known by his mother's name of Greene till he was permitted by act of legislature to assume that of his father. He early showed a taste for art, and was in the habit of watching the scene-painters in the theatre at Newport. His success in painting an entire landscape scene for this establishment led him to give his whole time to art, and in 1794 he became a portrait-painter in Providence, where he remained two years. He then followed his calling in Boston, New York, and Philadelphia till 1800, when he accompanied his friend Washington Allston to Charleston, South Carolina in 1801 the two went to Europe, whence Malbone returned in December to Charleston, notwithstanding the advice of Benjamin West, then president of the Royal academy, that he should remain permanently in London. After this he resided in Charleston. making periodical visits to the north, and painting miniatures in various cities of the United States with great reputationbut his application to his art undermined his health, which a voyage to the West Indies in 1806 was unable to restore. Malbone " had the happy talent," says Allston, " of elevating the character without impairing the likeness. This was remarkable in his male heads, and no woman ever lost beauty under his hand. To this he added a grace of execution all his own." In temperament he must have been near akin to his friend Allston, one of those gentle yet strong characters whose influence for good is felt universally. In his art Malbone is admitted to be without a peer. His miniatures stand alone. Not only is this so in his native land, but equally true in comparison with the best foreign work--the work of Isabey, Cosway, and Ross. He drew with the utmost correctness. He was endowed acutely with the power of discerning character and had the ability to delineate it, and he was possessed of fine, delicate taste which gave a grace to his work which is irresistibly charming; but his pre-eminent excellence was in coloring--perfect harmony, utmost delicacy, and absolute truth combined. Toward the close of his life he attempted oil-painting, and it is in tills medium that we possess his own portrait by his own hand, now in the Corcoran gallery at Washington. His miniatures are generally preserved as much-valued heirlooms in the families of his sitters, but good specimens of his male portraits can be seen in the Boston museum of fine arts and the Pennsylvania academy of the fine arts. Two of his most beautiful female heads, portraits of members of the Middleton family of South Carolina, are well known through engravings by John Cheney, entitled "Egeria" and "Annette." Besides portraits he occasionally painted landscapes in oil and figure-pieces, of which one of his finest, on ivory, is "The Hours," painted in London, and representing the past, the present, and the future, as three female figures moving in a circle. This is still preserved in the Providence athenaeum.
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