Monday, July 3, 2017

Today's Birthday: John Singleton Copley

 July 03, 1738. John Singleton Copley (1738 - 1815) was an American painter, born presumably in Boston, Massachusetts, and a son of Richard and Mary Singleton Copley, both Irish. He is famous for his portrait paintings of important figures in colonial New England, depicting in particular middle-class subjects. His paintings were innovative in their tendency to depict artifacts relating to these individuals' lives. In this image: Teri Hensick, conservator of the paintings at Harvard University's Straus Center for Conservation, points to a painting entitled, "Monmouth Before James II" at the exhibit "Process and Paradox: The Historical Pictures of John Singleton Copley" at the Fogg Art Museum in Cambridge, Mass., May 10, 2004.

TheCopley Family

The Boy with the Squirrel (Henry Pelham) (1765)

Portrait of Richard Heber (1782)
Self Portrait

John Singleton Copley unexpectedly illuminated America’s colonial sky. The child of poor uncultured parents and only briefly the stepson of artist Peter Pelham, he became by 1760, as if by Providence, the colonies’ supreme artist, a position he retained until his departure for London in 1774. His swift ascent and sustained eminence were the result of an innate ability to handle paint and produce images that eclipsed anything executed by his predecessors in America. Through his stepfather, Copley had access to a vast collection of prints after old masters and English portraits ...In this way, Copley not only learned how to compose his pictures, but also catered brilliantly to the anglophile predilections of his patrons, who coveted English-style portraits but rarely, if ever, traveled to England. He worked in various media to please patrons, executing paintings, pastels and miniatures with remarkable dexterity.

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Images and further biographical information from Wikipedia: 

A cautious man in a rash age, John Singleton Copley feared the onrush of the colonial rebellion against Great Britain. Like many people of his place and time, he called the rebels’ revolution a civil war. And like many people who had lived through civil wars before him, and who have endured them since, he thought the safest side was no side at all. Copley painted John Hancock, whom he knew well and grew to despise. But by the time Hancock signed the Declaration, the painter was long gone from the country that document called into being. In the spring of 1774, during the brief interval between Boston’s “tea party” and the outbreak of fighting in Lexington and Concord, Copley sailed to London, capital of the only nation he had ever known, leaving behind the second-tier British port city in which he had spent nearly four decades. John Singleton Copley had lived half his life in Britain’s American provinces. He would never set foot in the United States.

1 comment:

Carla Ives said...

I knew of Copley and admire his art. I didn't know he had left for England and never came back. Interesting. It was a tumultuous age. His self-portrait looks almost like a photograph!