American artist. Thomas Sully was born in England, and came to America with his family in 1795. In 1799 he joined the Richmond, Virginia, household of his brother Laurence, a miniature painter. On Laurence's death in 1804, he assumed responsibility for his brother's affairs; in 1806 he married Laurence's widow. He studied with Gilbert Stuart in Boston in the latter part of 1807. At the end of 1807 he took his family to Philadelphia where he established a studio, and where he remained for the rest of his life.
He traveled twice to England. On the first trip, in 1809-1810, he visited the American-born master Benjamin West, who advised him to study anatomy, and lent him paintings to copy. He also drew from the classical casts on display in the galleries of the Royal Society.
Some of Sully's early portraits are considered very fine examples of romantic portraiture. In 1837 he returned to England, commissioned by the Philadelphia's Society of the Sons of St. George to paint a portrait of Victoria, the young and not-yet-crowned Queen. His life study of her is now at the Metropolitan Museum of Art; the full-length portrait he painted for the Society is on loan to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC.