Marcus Mote was born in West Milton, Ohio, in 1817, a son of Quaker farmers David Mote Jr. and his wife, Miriam (Mendenhall) Mote. Marcus was raised in a strict Quaker household where art was not encouraged. In spite of this, he chose art as his career, eventually becoming a self-taught painter of miniature portraits, landscapes, panoramas, biblical scenes and ornamental works. He was also a pen artist, engraver, daguerreotypist, and a teacher of drawing and painting.
In 1837, while teaching school in Turtle Creek, Ohio, he eloped with Rhoda Steddom, one of his pupils. The couple settled near Lebanon, Ohio, and had several sons and one daughter. Around 1841, Mote began painting profile miniatures in watercolor. Later that decade, he traveled outside his county to paint portraits in oil, design advertising cuts for newspapers, and decorate omnibus carriages and signs. In 1850, he partnered with photographer Peter Deardorff, and the two set up a portrait gallery in Lebanon, advertising daguerreotypes, painted portraits and miniatures, and art classes.
When Deardorff left for Detroit about two years later, Mote continued painting portraits and by 1854, he had expanded his work to include four large panorama scenes that were publicly displayed around Ohio. After this, he appears to have concentrated on a career as an engraver.
In 1864, he moved his family to Richmond, Indiana, where many of his relatives were located. There he opened a School of Design which over the years, according to him, attracted more than 500 pupils. He remained in Richmond the rest of his life, teaching art and encouraging the state to introduce drawing into the state public school curriculum. He closed his studio in 1893. Five years later, suffering from senility, he died at the Easthaven Hospital for the Insane.
The Marcus Mote Family Portraits, circa 1844 to circa 1865, comprises three watercolor portraits painted by the Indiana artist, and seven daguerreotype and tintype portraits including one of his wife and one of his daughter. It is quite possible that the daguerreotype and tintype portraits were taken by him at his photography studio.
Image: The earliest watercolor portrait in the collection, circa 1860, is a seated profile of Mote’s younger brother Enos at 17. Enos lived in West Milton, Ohio, and was married to Martha Ann (Reed) Mote. Not much is known about the couple but both died in 1856. (Gift of Cordelia M. Gladfelter, Indiana Historical Society)