[Skip to Content]
[Skip to Content Landing]
Citations 0
The Cover
July 7, 2004

Lady With Her Pets (Molly Wales Fobes)

JAMA. 2004;292(1):15. doi:10.1001/jama.292.1.15

Though he practiced medicine in Massachusetts for nearly a quarter of a century during the late 18th and early 19th century, today Rufus Hathaway (1770-1822) is better known as a painter than as a physician. He is, in fact, considered one of America's most important folk painters, a contemporary of such other notable primitives as Edward Hicks (JAMA cover, February 21, 1986), Joshua Johns[t]on (JAMA cover, October 22/29, 2003), and Ammi Phillips (JAMA cover, December 15, 1989). Born in Freetown, Massachusetts, on February 2, 1770, Hathaway was a member of a large Quaker family of carpenters and shipbuilders. It is probably with family members that he served an apprenticeship as a ship carver and decorator. By the time he was 20, however, he had begun a career as a self-taught, itinerant portrait painter, traveling chiefly in southern Massachusetts. The career lasted barely five years, however. In 1795 he married and the following year began the study of medicine, perhaps because it offered a more stable and predictable income, as well as more prestige, for a young and growing family.