Dr. Samuel Addison Shute (1803–1836) and Ruth Whittier Shute (1803–1882) formed an unusual artistic collaboration after they were married in 1827. Their respective roles in this partnership are indicated on this portrait, which is inscribed: “Drawn by R.W. Shute / and / Painted by S.A. Shute.” The Shutes employed a number of unorthodox techniques and materials in their work. Oils were interspersed with layers of varnish and glazes; watercolors were supplemented with pastel, gouache, pencil, collage, and gum arabic; areas of paper were even left blank to suggest transparency and other effects. Most of the watercolors feature vigorous diagonal or horizontal strokes in the background.
Mr. Parker holds a Lowell newspaper dated May 16, 1832; the Weekly Compendium was published for just a brief time from 1832 to 1833. The loosely rendered portrait may seem more impressionistic than veristic to modern eyes, but there is a depth of heartfelt communion that suggests a relationship between the sitter and the artists. When the Parkers commissioned the Shutes to paint their portraits, they may have turned to artists who knew them personally and who could bring a sense of their character to the process.
Stacy C. Hollander, "Joseph Gilman Parker," exhibition label for Jubilation|Rumination: Life, Real and Imagined. Stacy C. Hollander, curator. New York: American Folk Art Museum, 2012.