The Sisters
© President and Fellows of Harvard College
Identification and Creation
Object Number
Washington Allston, American (Georgetown, SC 1779 - 1843 Cambridge, MA)
The Sisters
Work Type
c. 1816-1817
Physical Descriptions
Oil on canvas
127.7 x 102.9 cm (50 1/4 x 40 1/2 in.)
framed: 161.3 x 137.2 x 11.4 cm (63 1/2 x 54 x 4 1/2 in.)
Inscriptions and Marks
  • label: [formerly on back of canvas, now in conservation file]: Cambridgeport, January 29, 1839. Received of Francis Alexander fifteen hundred dollars for the picture of The Sisters painted by me.
Purchased from the artist by Francis Alexander, Boston, MA, 1839; William Gray, 1863; Mrs. Samuel Hooper, 1879; Thornton K. Lothrop, Boston, 1892; by descent to Anne M. Lothrop; to her daughter Amy Lothrop (Mrs. Algernon) Coolidge; to her daughter Anne Coolidge (Mrs. Edward W.) Moore; her gift to the Fogg Art Museum, 1957.
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Gift of Mrs. Edward W. Moore
Accession Year
Object Number
European and American Art
Publication History

[Letter from Henry W. Longfellow to Samuel Ward], March 11, 1839, Unpublished, Houghton Library, Harvard University

Exhibition of Pictures Painted by Washington Allston, exh. cat., Harding's Gallery (Boston, MA, 1839), p. 7

Elizabeth P. Peabody, Remarks on Allston's Painting (Boston, MA, 1839), pp. 11-12

"A Record of Impressions Produced by the Exhibition of Mr. Allston's Pictures in the Summer of 1839", The Dial (Boston, MA, July 1840), vol. I, no. 1, pp. 81-82

Catalogue of Pictures Lent to the Sanitary Fair for Exhibition Together With a Catalogue of Paintings and Statuary of the Athenaeum Gallery, exh. cat., Fred Rogers (Boston, MA, 1863), p. 14

Sarah Clarke, "Our First Great Painter, and His Works", The Atlantic Monthly (February 1865), vol. XV, p. 137

Moses Foster Sweetser, Allston (Boston, MA, 1879), pp. 114, 187

Exhibition of the Works of Washington Allston, exh. cat., Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (Boston, MA, 1881), p. 14

Mrs. Anna Jameson, "Washington Allston", The Anglo-American (Boston, MA, February 24, 1884), vol. II

Walter Montgomery, ed., American Art and American Art Collections (Boston, MA, 1889), pp. 731-732

Jared B. Flagg, The Life and Letters of Washington Allston, Charles Scribner's Sons (New York, NY, 1892), pp. 192-193, ill. p. 318

Julia Ward Howe, Reminiscences: 1819-1899 (Boston, MA and New York, NY, 1899), p. 430

Edgar P. Richardson, "Allston and the Development of Romantic Color", The Art Quarterly (Winter 1944), vol. VII, pp. 33-57, p. 53, ill. p. 48

Elizabeth H. Jones, ""Washington Allston's Painting Technique and His Place in the Coloristic Tradition"" (thesis (certificate in conservation), Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies, May 1947), Unpublished, pp. 1-13 passim

Edgar P. Richardson, Washington Allston, 1779-1843, a loan exhibition of paintings, drawings and memorabilia, exh. cat., Detroit Institute of Arts (Detroit, MI, 1947), no. 19, ill. p. 25

Fogg Art Museum and Benjamin Rowland, Jr., Real and Ideal in American Art, exh. cat. (Cambridge, MA, Summer 1948), cat. 5

Edgar P. Richardson, Washington Allston: A Study of the Romantic Artist in America, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL, 1948), pp. 121-122, 178, 204, no. 109, pl. XLIV

Thomas W. Leavitt, "Washington Allston at Harvard", Harvard Alumni Bulletin (Cambridge, MA, April 21, 1956), vol. 58, no. 13, p. 552

Jules David Prown, "The Sisters by Washington Allston", The Annual Report of the Fogg Art Museum 1956-1957, Fogg Art Museum (Cambridge, MA, 1958), pp. 45-48, p. 45-48, ill. p. 47

Elizabeth Johns, "Washington Allston's Library", The American Art Journal (November 1975), vol. VII, no. 2, pp. 32-41, pp. 32, p. 41, fig. 6

Elizabeth Johns, "Washington Allston: Method, Imagination and Reality", Winterthur Portfolio (Wilmington, DE, 1977), vol. 12, pp. 1-18, p. 14

William H. Gerdts and Theodore E. Stebbins, Jr., "A Man of Genius": The Art of Washington Allston (1779-1843), exh. cat., Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (Boston, MA, 1979), pp. 75, 94-95, 169, cat. 37, ill., also ill. on back cover

Elizabeth Johns, "Washington Allston's Later Career: Art About the Making of Art", Arts Magazine (December 1979), vol. 54, no. 4, pp. 122-129, p. 125

William H. Gerdts, "'Hermia and Helena' by Washington Allston", Art at Auction: The Year at Sotheby & Parke Bernet, 1981-82 (1982), pp. 36-41, p. 39, fig. 3

Elizabeth Garrity Ellis, "The 'Intellectual and Moral Made Visible': Te 1839 Washington Allston Exhibition and Unitarian Taste in Boston", Prospects (1985), vol. 10, pp. 39-76, pp. 51-52, fig. 9

Gerald Eager, "Washington Allston's The Sisters: Poetry, Painting, and Friendship", Word and Image (October 1990 - December 1990), vol. VI, no. 4, pp. 298-307, fig. 1, ill.

Nathalia Wright, ed., The Correspondence of Washington Allston, The University Press of Kentucky (Lexington, KY, 1993), pp. 64, 128, 404, 429, 487, 539, 548. 563, 588

Diana J. Strazdes, "Washington Allston's 'Beatrice'", Journal of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (Boston, MA, 1994), vol. 6, pp. 63-75, pp. 68-69, fig. 8

Wendy Greenhouse, "Daniel Huntington and the Ideal of Christian Art", Winterthur Portfolio, Henry Francis DuPont Winterthur Museum (Winterthur, DE, Summer 1996 - Autumn 1996), vol. 31, nos. 2 and 3, pp. 103-140, fig. 14

Gurion Taussig, Coleridge and the Idea of Friendship, 1789-1804, University of Delaware Press (Newark, DE, 2002), p. 325, ill. p. 326

Morton D. Paley, Samuel Taylor Coleridge and the Fine Arts, Oxford University Press (UK) (Oxford, UK, 2008), pp. 118-124, fig. 15

Theodore E. Stebbins, Jr. and Melissa Renn, American Paintings at Harvard, Volume One: Paintings, Watercolors, and Pastels by Artists Born before 1826, Yale University Press and Harvard Art Museums (Cambridge and New Haven, 2014), pp. 60-61, cat. 17, ill.

Exhibition History

Exhibition of Pictures Painted by Washington Allston, Harding's Gallery, Boston, 01/01/1839 - 12/31/1839

The Sanitary Fair Exhibition, Boston Athenaeum, Boston, 01/01/1863 - 12/31/1863

Washington Allston, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Boston, 06/01/1881 - 09/01/1881

[Washington Allston Exhibition], Symphony Hall, Boston, 04/01/1946 - 04/30/1946

Washington Allston, 1779-1843: A Loan Exhibition of Paintings, Drawings and Memorabilia, Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit, 05/11/1947 - 06/15/1947; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Boston, 07/17/1947 - 08/24/1947

Real and Ideal in American Art, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 06/01/1948 - 09/01/1948

American Paintings from the Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, Symphony Hall, Boston, 02/21/1958 - 03/15/1958

"A Man of Genius": The Art of Washington Allston (1779-1843), Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Boston, 12/12/1979 - 02/03/1980; Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, 02/28/1980 - 04/27/1980

Subjects and Contexts

Collection Highlights

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