American portrait painter.
He was trained in Sweden as a wood-engraver, gilder and painter. In 1712 he accompanied his brother, a Lutheran pastor, to America, where he settled in Philadelphia, PA. About 1720 he moved to the Annapolis, MD, area, returning before 1730 to Philadelphia, where he lived until his death. He was one of the first European-trained painters to settle permanently in America and introduced a greater technical skill and increased realism into Colonial painting. His painterly, atmospheric style, which derived from European Baroque, contrasted with the more linear technique of American-born painters. During most of his career he was the leading painter of the Middle Colonies. In addition to mythological scenes, altarpieces and portraits of prominent individuals, Hesselius undertook utilitarian work that included painting the country seat at Springettsbury of Thomas Penn (1702-75) and the interior of the Pennsylvania State House, as well as flower-boxes,