Charles Bird King (1785–1862) was an American portrait artist, best known for his portrayals of significant Native American leaders and tribesmen. He was born in Newport, Rhode Island as the only child of Deborah Bird and American Revolutionary veteran Captain Zebulon King. The family traveled west, but when King was four years old, his father was killed and scalped by Native Americans near Marietta, Ohio. His mother took her son to return to Newport, where they lived with her mother.
- King went to New York to study under the portrait painter Edward Savage.
- At age twenty he moved to London to study under Benjamin West at the Royal Academy.
- King returned to the U.S. in 1812 after a seven-year stay in London.
- He settled in Washington, and earned a reputation as a portraitist among politicians, whilst maintaining his own studio and gallery.
King’s success in the field of portraiture can be attributed to his ability to socialize with the wealthy celebrities and relate to the well-educated politicians of the time.
- In 1827 he was elected into the National Academy of Design as an Honorary Academician.
- Despite his wealth and societal standing, he never married, and lived in Washington until his death on March 18, 1862.
- Bird King bequeathed his collection of paintings, books and prints to the Redwood Library and Athenaeum.
His legacy proves that this bird in hand – is no burden had!