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Style and Image

Style and imageHarrison Gray Otis had this portrait painted in 1809. At forty-four years old, he was a successful lawyer, businessman, and politician. He wanted his portrait to say something about him. What do you think he is trying to say with his portrait?  Look at all the details – his clothes and the items on the desk.

His jacket is edged in fur, and he’s wearing a very fancy lace tie, called a cravat. They tell us that Harry was wealthy, and they also tell us that he knew what was in style. Harry was a fashionable gentleman.

On the table he has a book, a feather pen, and some papers. He wants us to know that he is very well educated. Not everyone knew how to read and write in the early 1800s, and even many people who did only knew the very basics. Harry went to Boston Latin School and then to Harvard University.

Related Activity: Self-Portraits (PDF)

Style and Image