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  • Solomon N. Carvalho

Solomon N. Carvalho

Solomon Carvalho was born in South Carolina in 1815. He was a portrait painter, daguerreotypist, and expeditionary artist. He died in New York in 1897. 

In 1852, Carvalho accompanied John C. Fremont on his fifth expedition from Missouri to Utah, a journey that required travel over several ranges in the Rocky Mountains. Carvalho became seriously ill and left the Fremont party in Parowan, Utah and then traveled to Salt Lake City. While in Salt Lake, he became a popular portrait artist with subjects including Brigham Young, authorities of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and other Utah notables. 

In 1857, Carvalho went on a peace mission with Brigham Young in central Utah where he painted portraits of Native American leaders such as Wakra, Indian Chief. Carvalho was a contemporary of the Rocky Mountain school of painting. Rio Grande River(1854–55) is an example of his landscape work. His daguerreotypes are the basis for book plates, oil paintings, and wood block prints. Adventures in the Far West, a book containing his reflections on Mormon culture, was published in 1857.

Biography adapted from Artists of Utah

Following Frederick Piercy, the next topographical recorder in the Utah area was the fascinating Solomon N. Carvalho (1815-1897), a Jew of Portuguese descent who came from South Carolina. Originally trained as a portrait painter, Carvalho was working at his chosen profession in Baltimore in 1852 when he decided to join Colonel John C. Fremont's final Rocky Mountain exploration as official expedition photographer. Carvalho, whose duties centered on the creation of daguerreotypes of the landscape passed en route, was among members to the party stranded by heavy snows in the Rockies in the winter of 1853-54. Fremont and his group finally staggered into the settlement of Parowan, Utah, on February 7, 1854; the South Carolinian had been forced to leave his valuable photographic equipment in a mountain camp about a hundred miles back.

Fremont, undaunted by recent experiences, was on his way to California soon afterward. Carvalho, on the other hand, was too weak to go on and stayed in Parowan to convalesce until near the end of February. Then, catching a ride with an L.D.S. Conference-bound wagon train to Salt Lake City, the artist arrived in that community on March 1. Deciding to establish himself as a portrait painter there in order to earn enough money to get home, Carvalho painted many of the region's most important figures in the succeeding ten weeks, though few of these pictures are today located--“two portraits of Brigham Young and one each of Lieutenant General Daniel H. Wells, General James Ferguson, Attorney General Seth Blair, Apostle Wilford Woodruff, Bishop A. O. Smoot, Colonel Feramorz Little and wife.“

Another Carvalho work of that time, A Utah Boy, was finally reproduced on page 212 of Fremont's Memoirs of My Life (1887). Impressing Brigham Young not only with his art but with what was essentially an outgoing personality, the painter was drawn to Salt Lake Society by the church leader. Much of this experience recorded by Carvalho--animated descriptions of life in Salt Lake City and other towns in Utah in 1854, coupled with strong opinions pro and con regarding Mormon culture--peppered his book of remembrances, Incidents of Travel and Adventure in the Far West (1857). Carvalho stayed in Salt Lake until May 6. He then traveled alone for three days to catch up with a Brigham Young wagon train going south. The connection was made, and the company moved on to the town of Nephi the next day. Young was in the area to hold a peace council with Chief Wakara (called “Walker“) who was camped near Nephi, and Carvalho took this opportunity to persuade the Indian leader to pose for a portrait. He also made sketches of other chiefs, and many of these images--Squash-head, Baptiste, Grosepine, Petenit, and Kanosh, along with A Utah Boy--were reproduced in Fremont's memoirs.

Of Kanosh, Chief of the Pahvant, Carvalho later wrote: “I found him well armed with a rifle and pistols, and mounted on a noble horse. He has a Roman nose, with fine, intelligent cast of countenance, and his thick black hair brushed off his forehead, contrary to the usual custom of his tribe. He immediately consented to my request that he should sit for his portrait; on on the spot, after an hour's labor, I produces a strong likeness of him.“ Describing many of the people and places he encountered, Carvalho also sketched the landscape a bit on this trip, visually recording Little Creek Canyon Pass, among other sites. Then, leaving the Brigham Young party on May 22, the artist joined a missionary company, led by Parley P. Pratt, headed for California, and departed Utah forever. He died in New York City.

Biography courtesy Artists of Utah


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