National Society of Colonial Dames of
America in Tennessee

Belle Meade Plantation
Portrait #1171
Harding, John
Artist: Cooper, Washington Bogart
Date Created: 1846
Owner/Location: Belle Meade Plantation
5025 Harding Road
Nashville, TN 37205
Frame Dimensions: 39.5” X 34.25”
Image Dimensions: 45” X 37.25"
Date Documented: 7 December 2007
Materials/Media: Oil on Canvas
Condition: Fair

Description: Half-length portrait of John Harding as a mature man seated on a red sofa and wearing a dark three-piece suit and white shirt. His hands are in his lap holding a riding crop or walking stick.
History of Work: Signed and dated, “W.B. Cooper 1846” middle left. The painting was commissioned after the death of John Harding’s wife Susannah, in 1845. W.B. Cooper or Washington Bogart Cooper was a famous artist out of Tennessee. Cooper was born September 18th 1802 in Washington County, Tennessee. His younger brother William Browning Cooper was also a famous portraitist. Neither Cooper boy had any sort of formal training as children. William Cooper was known to have said, “We commenced our artistic careers under circumstances most unfavorable to artistic culture– no schools of art, no pictures, nothing to stimulate us in our chosen pursuit.” It was about 1828 Washington Cooper was discovered by a fellow unnamed artist. It was also around this same time that the budding artist moved to Nashville. After a brief training in Philadelphia he began to advertise for sittings, and began a lifelong pace of about 35 portraits a year, earning him the title, “The man of a thousand portraits.” It was at the height of his career in the 1840s and 1850s that he would have painted the portraits for the Harding family. One of his last works was a self–portrait in 1885, which was given to the Tennessee Historical Society. Washington Bogart Cooper died of pneumonia March 30th 1888.
Notes:The subject in the painting, John Harding, was born in Goochland County, Virginia on November 2, 1777. Along with his family, his father and siblings, John settled in Davidson County Tennessee in 1798. After clearing, farming, and overseeing land for his father for nearly a decade, John married Susannah Shute, August 6th 1806. They began their life on what was the old Dunham Station property at Richland Creek, six miles west of Nashville. Their original 250 acre farm and log cabin would multiply rapidly by 1820, to 3800 acres and a brick Federal style home. John had also invested in many business ventures including a blacksmith shop, a grist mill, a saw mill, and eventually the farms notable thoroughbred industry. He also was a landholder of 4 other plantations in the south, a sugar plantation in Louisiana, cotton plantations in Arkansas, Alabama, and also Nashville. By 1839, John turned his successful stud farm at Belle Meade Plantation over to his son William Giles Harding to maintain, while he moved to a townhouse at 85 Spring Street in Nashville proper. At the time of his death on September 16th 1865 he was noted as one of Davidson County’s largest landholders.

Location: Back Parlor