Sold for $25,000
(French/New Orleans, 1830-1895)
"Colonel John Lewis Bush (1820-1892)"
oil on canvas
signed lower left.
Period gilt frame.
51-1/2" x 34-1/2", framed 65-1/4" x 48-1/4"
Provenance: Descended in the family of the sitter, New Orleans, Louisiana.
Notes: As described by his great granddaughter, "Modest and unobtrusive in manners, kind and genial is disposition, affable and courteous to all, Colonel Bush had many friends and no enemies. Universally popular, always seasoning his conversation with a spice of good humor."
A prominent Louisiana statesman, lawyer, businessman and soldier, Bush was the progenitor of a family actively involved in Mardi Gras krewes of Rex, Comus and Twelfth Night Revelers. A descendant of the Warner Hall Lewis family of Virginia, John Lewis Bush was born in Iberville Parish and moved with his family to Lafourche Parish as a young child. Bush was appointed Clerk of the First District Court of Lafourche in 1846, admitted to the bar in 1854 and became a senior associate of several law firms. As a member of the State Legislature, he argued against Louisiana secession for the Union, but realizing his efforts were futile, signed the act of secession and "assumed the consequences of his action." During the Civil War, Bush formed a company of Confederate soldiers known as the "Lafourche Creoles, 109 Strong". He rose to the rank of Colonel, served on General Mouton's staff, and was appointed president of a military court stationed in Shreveport.
After the war, Bush resumed in his legal career with the formation of the firm of Bush & Goode. Bush was actively involved in business endeavors, served as President of the National Cotton Exchange, was instrumental in the founding of the New Orleans Board of Trade, and re-elected to the State Legislature where he became Speaker of the House. As a benefactor, Bush established the Louis Bush Medal in 1882, which is awarded to this day to a student who demonstrates excellence in the French language and culture at the University of Louisiana (today Tulane University).
Colonel Bush married Celeste Gresham of Lafourche Parish and had two sons, Reuben Gresham Bush and Harry Garland Bush, and two daughters Susan Karr Bush and Josephine Gresham Bush. Josephine and her husband Charles Janvier had eight children, and Charles reigned as Rex in 1896. Their daughters Celeste Janvier reigned as Queen of Comus in 1906 and Lois Janvier reigned as Queen of Rex in 1912. Susan and her husband C. B. Maginnis' daughter married Arthur Burton LaCour, who wrote the highly regarded book on the history of Mardi Gras entitled New Orleans Masquerade: Chronicles of Carnival>P> and was an active member of Twelfth Night Revelers.
At his death in 1892, Colonel Bush's distinguished portrait by John Genin was draped in black and hung at the New Orleans Board of Trade. In the portrait, Bush's hand rests on the book Rules of the House, alluding to his position as Speaker of the House. The artist John Genin was born in France and studied with the academic portraitist Leon Bonnat in Paris. Settling in New Orleans, Genin became an active participant of the local art community, a member of the Southern Art Union and one of the most successful portrait painters of the late 19th century in New Orleans. Throughout his career Genin made return trips to his native France, and consequently his work continued to show the influences of French academic painting.