This captivating portrait of Francis Welch (1744-1790) was painted in London between 1788 and 1790 by James Earl (1761-1796). Both men were Massachusetts natives who had come to England for different reasons, Welch to claim wages lost because he was a Loyalist and Earl to establish an artistic career.
Francis Welch, the son of prominent Boston carver John Welch, was a Freemason and a custom house officer in Philadelphia until the American Revolution, when he lost the position. In 1783, he traveled with other Loyalists to New Brunswick, Canada, where he supported himself farming and teaching until he received an appointment in the custom house at Saint Andrews. In 1788, he journeyed to London to petition for wages due him from his Philadelphia post and to resolve other grievances. While there he learned that his father had disinherited him because of his loyalty to the crown.
James Earl was the younger brother of the more famous American artist Ralph Earl. A Loyalist, Ralph was in London between 1778 and 1785. It is assumed that James shared his brother's political views, for after he arrived in London in 1787, he painted the portraits of a number of expatriate Loyalists. In 1794, he visited Charleston, South Carolina, to execute some commissions and died there two years later during an epidemic of yellow fever. His obituary described his skill at capturing a likeness, especially his extraordinary talent "of giving life to the eye, and expression of every feature."
-Richard C. Nylander