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"A” is for Allston, Washington (1779-1843)

“A” is for Allston, Washington (1779-1843). Painter, writer. Allston was descended from an eminent South Carolina family that had settled along the Waccamaw River in the seventeenth century. In 1787 he left Charleston to study in Newport, Rhode Island before matriculating at Harvard. After graduating in 1800, Allston declared to his family his intention to pursue an artistic career. He made a final visit to Charleston before travelling abroad to continue his studies. He always acknowledged his southern origins, particularly his exposure to African American tales and myths. In return, he received patronage from many South Carolinians. Abroad, Allston achieved success as a history painter in England—especially with classical landscapes. Returning to America, he settled in Cambridgeport, Massachusetts. At his death Washington Allston left unfinished Belschazzar’s Feast, a work considered by many to be his masterpiece.

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Dr. Walter Edgar has two programs on South Carolina Public Radio: Walter Edgar's Journal, and South Carolina from A to Z. Dr. Edgar received his B.A. degree from Davidson College in 1965 and his Ph.D. from the University of South Carolina in 1969. After two years in the army (including a tour of duty in Vietnam), he returned to USC as a post-doctoral fellow of the National Archives, assigned to the Papers of Henry Laurens.