A Space of Their Own

Ellen Wallace Sharples

March 4, 1769 – March 14, 1849

Active in: England and the United States
Alternate names: Ellen Wallas


Ellen Wallace Sharples was an English painter who specialized in pastel portraits and watercolor miniatures. She was born in Bath in 1769, and in 1787 she married James Sharples, who was also a painter. Their two children, James and Rolinda, both became artists. The family first moved to the United States in 1794, where Sharples’s husband found success as a portraitist, painting important American figures such as George Washington and Alexander Hamilton. Sharples would then make portrait miniature copies of her husband’s paintings. The family moved back and forth between the United States until James’s death in 1810, when Sharples moved to Bristol. There, she founded the Bristol Fine Arts Academy. Sharples remained there until her death in 1849.

Selected Works


Avery, Kevin. American Drawings and Watercolors from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2002.

Husch, Gail E. James Sharples (1751/52–1811) or Ellen Wallace Sharples (1769–1849): George Washington (Painting). Vol. 2. Sewell C. Biggs Collection of American Art.

Jeffares, Neil. “Sharples, Mrs. James, née Ellen Wallas.” Dictionary of Pastellists before 1800. http://www.pastellists.com/Articles/SHARPLESe.pdf.

Knox, Katharine McCook. The Sharples, Their Portraits of George Washington and His Contemporaries: A Diary and an Account of the Life and Work of James Sharples and His Family in England and America. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1930.

Metz, Kathryn. “Ellen and Rolinda Sharples: Mother and Daughter Painters.” Woman’s Art Journal 16 (1995): 3–11.

Miles, Ellen. George and Martha Washington: Portraits from the Presidential Years. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution, National Portrait Gallery, 1999.

Sharples family documents, Ref. No. 15395. Bristol Archives. http://archives.bristol.gov.uk/Record.aspx?src=CalmView.Catalog&id=15395.

Sherman, Frederic Fairchild. “The Portraiture of the Sharples Family.” Art in America 32 (1944): 84–86.

Stewart, Brian, and Mervyn Cutten. The Dictionary of Portrait Painters in Britain up to 1920. Woodbridge: Antique Collectors’ Club, 1997.

Waggoner, Diane. “The Sharples Collection Family and Legal Papers (1794–1854).” British Online Archives, 2001. microform.digital/map/guides/R97579.pdf.

Wilson, Arnold. “The Sharples Family of Painters.” Antiques 100 (1971): 740–44.

Entry Notes

Contributions to timeline and bibliography provided by Indiana University A300 student Caitlyn Scoville