Thomas Sully's sketches of Robinson Crusoe in the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (Texas)
Hallam, John S.
Master of Arts
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston owns ten oil sketches by Thomas Sully (1783-1872) which depict episodes from Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe. The ten paintings represent different events in Crusoe's twenty-eight year stay on an uninhabited island from the shipwreck which landed him there to his departure. He dated the first sketch 1856, and they were probably the preparatory studies for ten larger paintings of the same subjects which he completed in 1858. On the back of the first sketch Sully acknowledged his source for the sketches, illustrations by the English artist, Thomas Stothard (1755-1834) which were published in an 1820 edition of Robinson Crusoe. In addition to the Robinson Crusoe series, Sully painted many other literary subjects which have never been studied in any detail. Although Sully is known as a portraitist, these examples of his subject paintings indicate that they should be studied further.