As Independence Day approaches, I thought it appropriate to introduce the artist who painted over 300 portraits of men, women and children living during the Revolutionary period.
John Singleton Copley was born on July 3, 1738 in Boston, Massachusetts to parents of Irish descent. His father died when John was a young boy. When John was about ten years old, his mother married Peter Pelham, an artist, teacher, and dance instructor. While there are no official records, it is likely that John received his schooling, and appreciation for art, from his stepfather.
In colonial America, there were not a lot of opportunities to see or create art. Young John often complained that there were no properly executed examples of art from which to learn. In spite of that, he did learn at a very young age to draw, paint, and engrave, and his portrait work became salable long before he was of age. Wanting to advance his skills beyond painting with oils, John had to special order pastels in from an artist friend in Switzerland.
By the 1760’s John Singleton Copley began painting portraits of famous and not-yet-famous colonials, and the money he earned was extraordinary for his town and time. People such as Paul Revere, Samuel Adams, and John Hancock came to his painting room to sit and have their portraits done. One trait that set Copley’s portraits apart from others was his inclusion of objects depicting the individuals’ lives. He had the ability to reveal not only the sitter’s physical characteristics, but also his personality, occupation, and social position.
Copley married Susanna Farnham Clarke on November 16, 1769. They had six children, and lived in a picturesque house in Boston on Beacon Hill, where he painted the portraits of dignitaries of state and church, graceful women and charming children.
As the political and economic conditions in Boston worsened, with the Boston Tea Party and threats against Loyalists (those such as Copley’s family who were loyal to the Crown), Copley decided it best to move to Europe in 1774, with his wife and children joining him in 1775.
His reputation as a painter followed him to Europe, where Copley quickly reestablished his career. He also expanded his portrait painting to painting pictures of historical places and events. Between 1776 and 1815 he sent forty-three paintings to exhibitions of the Royal Academy.
On September 9, 1815 John Singleton Copley, the greatest and most influential painter in colonial America, died from a stroke.
The Free Download of Pictures Every Child Should Know by Dolores Bacon
Record what you learn on:
Samuel Adams – 1772; oil on canvas
Paul Revere – 1768; oil on canvas
John Hancock – 1765; oil on canvas
Analyze the above paintings with:
A portrait of your own!
What is a portrait? A portrait is a picture of someone that usually includes only their head and shoulders, but does sometimes include the whole body. A well done portrait tells you more about a person than what he looks like. It will show emotion, character, and as Copley showed in his paintings, the occupation and/or social position.
When choosing your model, make sure it is someone who can sit still while you draw. Gather some items that would identify that person. Place a musical instrument in the hand of a musician, or a soccer ball under the arm of a sports nut. Draw the portrait trying to portray as much of the person’s feelings and character as possible.
You can follow these step by step instructions, if you’d like.
This is 13 year old Artist’s rendition of Douglas MacArthur, who was fond of corn cob pipes. See more of the talented Artist’s work at http://2arboysofvalor.blogspot.com/
If you post your finished portrait on your blog, please share your link here so we can all enjoy your artwork!
This website to view the complete works of John Singleton Copley.
To extend your study:
Pick a unit study or lapbook from Homeschool Share’s American Revolution Connections Page.
For a tea time treat: