Charles Bridges (1672-1747) was an Englishman and an active member of the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge and the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts. He arrived in Virginia in 1735 with letters of introduction to James Blair and William Gooch, through connections in the Anglican Church. While English portraits dating to before 1735 survive, it appears that his colonial work is exclusively from Virginia. He painted in Virginia from 1735 to ca. 1744, when he returned to England. For many years, many paintings from Virginia dating to the early to mid-eighteenth century were attributed to Bridges based almost entirely on the fact that he was one of the only documented portraitists working in the colony in that period. Many of these attributions are incorrect and are now considered works of unknown artists based on stylistic differences from Bridges’s signed works.
Governor William Gooch to Thomas Gooch (England), “I rec. your letter…another of Mr. Bridges recommending those Gentm in a particular manner to my esteem and favour;…Mr. Bridges I have already loaded with my civilities, tho’ it looks a little odd for a Governour to show so much favour to a Painter, as to lend him Coach to fetch his Daughters and Son, and his waggon for two days to bring up his Goods, and to entertain him at Dinner & Supper several times since his arrival, and to promise him as soon as he’s settled that he shall begin to show the country his Art, by drawing my Picture, but all this I have done, and upon ur. recommendation shall continue to do him all the Service in my power.” 26 May 1735, William Gooch Letterbook, Transcript, Research Department, Colonial Williamsburg.
James Blair to Bishop Gibson, “I had your Lordship’s lately by Mr. Bridges whom I take to be a very honest good man. He shall have all the encouragement I can give him.” 7 July 1735, quoted in Graham Hood, Charles Bridges and William Dering, 3-4.
William Byrd II to Alexander Spotswood, “The person who has the honour to wait upon you with this letter, is a man of a good family, but either by the frowns of fortune, or his own mismanagement, is obligd to see his bread a little of the latest in a strange land. His name is Bridges and his profession painting, and if you have any employment for im in that way, he will be proud of obeying your commands. He has drawn my children, and several others in this neighborhood, and tho’ he have not the masterly hand of a Lilly or a Kneller, yet had he liv’d so long ago, as when places were given to the most deserving, he might have pretended to be serjeant-painter of Virginia.” 22 December 1735, in Tinling, ed., Correspondence of the Three William Byrds of Westover, 468.