Charles Loring Elliott a native of Cayuga County NY became one of the foremost
portrait artist of his time. During his career he painted more than seven
hundred portraits including many of the period's most successful businessmen,
such as glass manufacturer Erastus Corning, Hartford gun magnate Samuel Colt,
millionaires William Thompson Walters of Baltimore and William Wilson Corcoran
of Washington, as well as writers, artists, and politicians.
At age ten, young Charles developed a thriving business. In his father's workshop he made sleds, wagons, wind-mills and saw-mills which he decorated and sold to the village children. One day in school, his status as the best artist was challenged by another student who drew horses. Charles took up the challenge and started drawing horses. Charles collected all the pictures he could of horses to copy but soon realized that he needed to study horses from life. He later remembered this as the moment when he started thinking as an artist. He began to draw prancing horses and horses in other stances and his pictures met the challenge.
Charles decided that he wanted to try painting with oils and canvas. There were no artists in the village to seek advice from so he had to use trial and error. He was still ten years old when he visited a mansion his father was constructing. He noticed that men were painting a mural on one wall. After the workmen had left for the day, Charles decided to paint a bridge with a man crossing it in the center of the mural. The workmen left the artwork on the wall and several years later Elliott's artistic talent was confirmed. He was visiting the same mansion which had been sold to a new owner. The new owner had wallpapered the wall with the mural and left a square of the mural exposed featuring Charles' bridge and man.
New York City Training and the Itinerant years
In 1838 he worked as a painter by day in the Legg's carriage shop in Skaneateles and painted portraits in his spare time. It was also during this time that he did one of the few landscapes of his career-the Head of Skaneateles Lake. It was also here that he became acquainted with Benson J. Lossing, a wood engraver, the Illman brothers, who were steel engravers and Sanford Thayer an artist from Victory. These artists were to remain life-long friends.
In 1845 Elliott returned to Auburn to paint a portrait of William Seward and other prominent Auburnians. He leased space from a struggling artist, George L. Clough. After completing his work in Auburn, Elliott arranged for Clough to receive training in New York City.
Recognition at last