This is Fraser's only known self-portrait in watercolor on ivory. On his 1824 trip to Boston, Fraser took his self-portrait to the studio of Gilbert Stuart, the distinguished portraitist. In a letter to his sister, Fraser described the great painter's reaction: "I showed him my picture and he appeared delighted with it. Indeed he said that he scarcely or never had seen a head on ivory which he preferred to it. If he had said nothing I would still have been much flattered, for he held it in his hands a half hour, looking at it."
In the portrait he shows himself with a book --suggesting his background in the law and his skills as an author and orator, rather than as a painter. The column to the right became a standard motif for his most ambitious portraits. The curly, wispy hair is reminiscent of contemporary portraits by his friend Thomas Sully, but the totality lacks Sully's romantic fervor. The skewed gaze may be a physical defect, or more likely, a result of the difficulty Fraser had painting himself.
This text is adapted from Martha Severens "The Miniature Portrait Collection of the Carolina Art Association" published by the Carolina Art Association, 1984