biography of Charles B. J. Févret DE SAINT-MÉMIN (1770-1852)

Birth place: Dijon, France

Death place: Dijon

Profession: Profilist, crayon and watercolor portraitist, landscape painter, and engraver

Work: NYHS; Maryland Historical Society; Corcoran Gallery; Winterthur Mus.; Peabody Mus., Salem; MMA

Comments: With the outbreak of the French Revolution, he and his family emigrated to Switzerland and, in 1793, to the U.S., where they settled in NYC. Saint-MÈmin had been an amateur landscape artist but in 1796 turned professional in order to assist his impoverished parents. His first productions were engraved views and maps but he soon took up the more lucrative profession of portraiture. With the aid of a physiognotrace (a machine invented in 1786 by Gilles-Louis ChrÈtien) he was able to create quick and accurate profiles, usually on pink or blue paper. His method was to draw the outline in pencil and then fill in details with black and white chalk. He also sold engraved versions in which the portrait image was reduced to a circular miniature size. Saint-MÈmin moved from NYC to Burlington, NJ, in 1798 but spent much time in Philadelphia and traveling. Between 1804 and 1809 he journeyed to Niagara Falls; Baltimore; Annapolis; Wash., DC; Richmond; and Charleston. In Washington in 1804, he made early portraits of the Plains Indians. Returned to France in 1810 but was back in NYC in 1812, remaining there for two years and painting portraits and landscapes. In 1814 he returned permanently to Dijon where he served as director of the local museum until his death. Also appears as De Saint-MÈmin.

Sources: G&W; See biography of Saint-MÈmin: Guignard, Notice Historique sur la Vie ... de Saint-MÈmin (1853), as well as numerous monographs and articles on various aspects of his work, chief among them being the following: Norfleet, Saint-MÈmin in Virginia; Pleasants, Saint-MÈmin Water Color Miniatures; Bolton, Saint-MÈmin's Crayon Portraits"; and Rice, "An Album of Saint-MÈmin Portraits," with a useful bibliography. See also: DAB; Richmond Portraits; Stokes, Iconography. More recently, see Baigell and NYHS Catalogue (1974); P & H Samuels, 415."