Trained in Dublin and Paris, Irish-born William Hinchey (originally “Hinchy”) came to the United States in 1854 at the invitation of Jean-Baptiste Lamy, then Bishop of Santa Fe, who hired the artist to paint frescoes in the churches of the New Mexico Territory. Frustrated by living conditions and difficulties with getting the frescoes to adhere to adobe walls, Hinchey left Santa Fe after only three and one-half months, ultimately traveling to St. Louis, Missouri, which became his permanent home.
Hinchey became one of St. Louis’s foremost artists, recording scenes of local life and making likenesses of the city’s leading citizens in oil and pastel. During the Civil War, he served as a special correspondent and artist for Harper’s Weekly and Frank Leslie’s Illustrated News, a capacity in which he continued until his death in 1893.
In this captivating self-portrait, Hinchey depicted himself as an oil painter but executed the image in pastel, a medium favored by artists for its vibrancy of color and ability to create realistic flesh tones.