Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Happy birthday, John Singleton Copley

Detail: Paul Revere (1770). Detail: Watson and the Shark (1778).
It is the birthday of painter John Singleton Copley (1738), who is remembered for his portraits of New England colonial figures and his depiction of historical events both in colonial America and in England, where he lived for a time and became quite well known. His parents were Irish merchants who emigrated to Boston. His father died about the time he was born and his mother remarried. His stepfather was an accomplished engraver, who no doubt influenced Copley. Scholars don't know exactly when he started painting but he was executing fine portraits by his mid-teens. Among his best-known works is a portrait of the patriotic silversmith Paul Revere, painted in the environment of his day job. Copley's first venture into historical painting was a shark attack in Havana harbor.

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