Biography - Nelson A. Primus

Nelson A. Primus is known to have painted at least three paintings for the Gibson family; one of Nehemiah done in 1883 (seen below), one of his son Charles Earl done in 1881 and a third painting maybe of Nehemiah's wife Lucy in 1883.

(Click here to see all three paintings)

This 1883 painting of Nehemiah was perhaps painted from a photograph taken before his death (see below).


About Nelson A. Primus

From -

"Another child [of Holderidge Primus] was Nelson Primus, who apprenticed as a carriage maker and painter. In 1864 he moved to Boston to begin a career at a portrait painter. His work was exhibited in Hartford and Boston, for at the time downtown Hartford had a lively art colony (that included Charles Porter), and these artists used their studies to exhibit their own art and that of others. To see illustrations of his portraits, read the book, Art and Artists in Connecticut."


From - Arts and Artists in Connecticut by HW French -

"NELSON A PRIMUS A colored boy Nelson A Primus born in Hartford 1843 was apprenticed to George Francis to learn the carriage making and painting trade It was a gloomy prospect even in Hartford and as late as 1858 to start in life with any notion of raising himself and Nelson Primus had as hard a time as any of his race However with the help of Mr Francis who vigorously upheld him he weathered the buffetings and rapidly developed a strong love for art and some ability in painting and in 1859 received a medal from the State Agricultural Society for good drawing He painted a trout piece which the scholars of the Talcott street Sunday School purchased and presented to the superintendent Mr Francis gave him some instruction Mrs Jerome also gave him a few lessons Beside this all of his studying was done by himself In 1864 he moved to Boston and endeavored to establish himself as a portrait painter He paints a very good face and has been partially successful but obliged to work at carriage painting beside for support He painted a portrait of FJ Allen proprietor of the Astor House that was highly complimented by the press and one of the actress Lizzie May Ulmer a good likeness and well executed."


Old Link that no longer works

From -

French, H. W. Art and Artists in Connecticut. New York: C. T. Dillingham, 1879. This book is treated above, under “Art.” It is included here to call attention to the one-paragraph biography of Nelson A. Primus (b. Hartford, 1843), a black artist of note. He was especially active as a portraitist around Boston in 1878, when French wrote the book. See below: David White’s “Addie Brown.”Connecticut's Heritage Gateway (



N. A. Primus Advertisement - from the East Boston Advocate 29 April 1882.