Painter and poet Washington Allston was born in South Carolina in 1779 and grew up in Newport, Rhode Island. He graduated from Harvard University, where he was chosen to read a poem at his commencement. He then moved to London to study at the Royal Academy under Benjamin West and traveled in Europe. Allston’s portraits, landscapes, and biblical subjects would greatly influence future American landscape painters. His poetry, published in The Sylphs of the Seasons (1813) and the posthumous Lectures on Art and Poems (1850), included occasional poems, poems dedicated to individuals—for example, his “Sonnet on the Late S. T. Coleridge”—and poems about art.
Allston was well acquainted with notable poets and painters of his time. He met Coleridge in Italy, and his portrait of the poet is part of the permanent collection of the National Portrait Gallery in London. It currently hangs at Dove Cottage & Wordsworth Museum in Grasmere, England. In the United States, Allston knew Gilbert Stuart and was admired by the transcendentalists Ralph Waldo Emerson, Margaret Fuller, and Oliver Wendell Holmes. Allston married Ann Channing, sister of the Unitarian minister William Ellery Channing. After her death, he married Martha Dana.
At the time of his death in 1843, Allston lived in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Allston, Massachusetts, is named for him.