Justus DaLee

Justus DaLee (1793 – 1878) was an American folk artist, itinerant painter of portrait miniatures ,producing elaborate calligraphic family records for his clientele. Dalee was a school teacher in New York State and is also known to have worked in Massachusetts. He is best known for his miniature portraits in profile and family records or registers. Probably born in 1791 he is known to have been active between 1826 and 1848. He is last documented as a “grocer” in Rochester New York from 1848-9.

He advertised himself as the “Side Portrait Painter,” often painting the sitter’s head in profile and the body in a full frontal view. While his drawing of ears has been considered stylized, his details of costume, hairstyle, features, and jewelry are very detailed.

Justus DaLee was born October 1, 1793 in Pittstown, Washington County, New York to James Waterman DaLee and his wife, Anstis Kinnicutt. He married Mary Fowler October 13, 1816 at White Creek, Washington County, New York, and they had ten children.

He served as a musician in the War of 1812 and was a professor of penmanship.

He was active in the New York area and was known for his miniature naïve art side portraits. Media used were mixed media, oil, watercolor, and ink. He was working in the Albany, New York, area by the 1830s, and was in Rochester, New York in 1840, traveling to Massachusetts and then to Ohio in search of work. His last listing as a portrait painter was in 1847 in Buffalo, New York.

He died January 5, 1878 in Eden, Wisconsin and is buried in the Odekirk Cemetery, Eden, Fond du Lac County,.

The earliest dated record of Justus Dalee’s activity is this fifty-two page sketchbook entitled “Emblematic Figures, Representations, and, to Please the Eye.” It is a homemade hand-sown volume. The facing pages show finished watercolor and ink compositions, pencil or watercolor and ink renderings, and unfinished or preliminary sketches in pencil, with some page left blank. The illuminated title page is dated “May 19th, 1826,” and the latest dated drawing in the book is inscribed “February 12th, 1827.” Several of the drawings are signed in full, and on one page he titled himself “Professor of Penmanship.” At least four drawings are copies after printed plates in an early edition of an art instruction manual, “The Oxford Drawing Book.” Several others appear to be a copies of engraved fashion plates with floral embellishments.