Art: Rebel Brush

Wealthy Bostonians have invariably been kind to painters who were kind to them. In colonial days, each year brought a new crop of self-made gentry who wanted pictures of themselves in lace and ruffles to send home to England or to hang in their own parlors as proof of success. They cared more for the lace than for the likeness. Portraiture, wrote James Thomas Flexner in a history of colonial painting (First Flowers of Our Wilderness, Houghton Mifflin; $10) out last week, became "a profession before any other American art."

Inevitably, the chief hero...

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