Bowdoin College Museum of Art

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Portrait of Reverend Samson Occom

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Portrait of Reverend Samson Occom
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Nathaniel Smibert (Attributed to)


Portrait of Reverend Samson Occom

Creation Date

ca. 1751-1756

Medium & Support

oil on canvas


30 1/8 in. x 24 15/16 in. (76.52 cm x 63.34 cm)

Credit Line

Bequest of the Honorable James Bowdoin III

Accession Number



Public Domain

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A member of Connecticut’s Mohegan tribe, Samson Occom converted to Christianity and became a student of the Reverend Eleazer Wheelock. Ordained a Presbyterian minister in 1759, he recruited Native American children to study at Wheelock’s “Indian Charity School.” Occom was a compelling public speaker and traveled to England to raise funds for its operation. In 1769, the school was moved to New Hampshire and chartered as Dartmouth College. Occom’s commitment to this enterprise is all the more remarkable because it occurred during the French and Indian War, a destructive conflict, especially in northern New England, that ended in 1763. Nathaniel Smibert, a son of painter John Smibert, captures Occom’s arresting gaze and purposeful stance. The blue drapery mirrors the tranquil, yet vibrant sky, adding richness to the foreground. Because areas around Occom’s chest and neck are unfinished, scholars believe Smibert was still working on this portrait when he died in 1756.
Keywords: portraits  

Portfolios: FEAT|American Art   Collections: Paintings - American   Collections: Paintings   FEAT|Public Domain