Portrait of Mr. S. Vaughan

Image of portrait of Mr. S. Vaughan, oil painting, Sheldon Peck, ca. 1845
by Sheldon Peck, oil painting, ca. 1845

Sheldon Peck moved from upstate New York to Babcock's Grove (present day Lombard, Illinois) in 1837, living with his wife, Harriet, in a covered wagon while he built his farm house. He farmed and raised sheep while also traveling the Illinois countryside painting portraits. Peck was a self-taught artist. His portraits follow many of the conventions of the 19th century, with broad flat areas of color and a stiff and starched formality. Peck would paint his sitter’s face in person and then finish the clothing and backgrounds at his home.
Prior to coming to Illinois, Peck lived in an area of upstate New York referred to as the “burned-out district.” This region was swept up in various reform movements of the 19th century: abolitionism, temperance, women's rights, public education. Sheldon and Harriet Peck embraced these movements, taking them on as personal causes as they moved west to Illinois. Most notably, the Pecks were active abolitionists, advocating for the end of slavery and granting of equal rights to African Americans. They chose to raise sheep in opposition to the slave-powered cotton industry of the South. Their home was a refuge on the Underground Railroad, a network of secret routes and safe houses used by African American slaves to escape into freedom.

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