Remarkable talent distinguished painter George Peter Alexander Healy at a young age, and brought him to the attention of two major benefactors who would underwrite and foster his professional career.
At the young age of seventeen, the Boston-born Healy opened his own portrait studio, and received some of his first patronage from Mrs. Harrison Gray Otis. It was she, along with noted portraitist Thomas Sully, who would support Healy on his first educational journey to Paris.
He journeyed to the city in 1834 where he studied with Antoine Jean-Gros and Thomas Couture. He remained there for many years, developing a strong international reputation for his portrait work. He would paint royalty as well as members of the upper classes of society and politics.
From his first journey to Paris, and all the way to the end of his life, Healy would work on both continents, making a total of thirty five Atlantic crossings by the age of seventy nine. In 1855 however he had returned to America and set up a studio in Chicago, from where he traveled all along the Eastern seaboard to paint portraits of leading politicians and notable Americans, including Abraham Lincoln and Louisa May Alcott. It is estimated that he completed roughly one hundred each year.
After 1865 he returned to Europe for a period of twenty five years, when he finally left in disgust over the predominance of Impressionism in the Parisian art world, and made his final trip to America.
Healy exhibited a great deal during his life, including the Paris Salon and the National Academy of Design in New York. His works are in several important collections, including more than forty American museums.