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John Trumbull

1756-1843

 


Edited A.C. Illustration  Copyright© 2001 by VirtualologyTM

 

John Trumbull, artist, born in Lebanon, Conn., 6 June, 1756; died in New York city, 10 Nov., 1843, entered Harvard at the age of sixteen, and was graduated the fol­lowing year, 1773. As he has said himself, his "taste for drawing began to dawn early." While at college he studied Brooke Taylor's "Jesuit's Perspective" and William Hogarth's "Analysis of Beauty," and after returning to Lebanon he painted the death of Paulus Emilius at Cannae. When the Revolutionary war opened, he joined the army as adjutant. His skill as a draughtsman enabled him to make drawings of the enemy's works at Boston, and Washington appointed him one of his aides-de-camp. He sub­sequently went northward with Gen. Horatio Gates as adjutant, with the rank of colonel, but on 22 Feb., 1777, being dissatisfied with date of his commission deputy adjutant-general, he re­signed and resumed his art-studies.  

His love for military life had not left him, however, and when, in 1778, a plan was formed for the recovery of Rhode Island from the British, he joined Gen. John Sul1ivan during the enterprise as volunteer aide-de-camp. In May, 1780, he sailed for France, whence, after a short stay, he went to London, with a letter from Benjamin Franklin to Benjamin West. He was soon arrested for treason, but after an impris­onment of eight months he was released, on con­dition of leaving the kingdom, West and John Singleton Copley becoming his sureties. When the close of the war enabled him to go again to Eng­land in January, 1784, he resumed his studies with West. He visited Paris in 1785, and there began the composition of his "Declaration of Independence." After a journey through the countries wa­tered by the Rhine, he returned to London in the autumn of 1786. During this period he painted also his "Sortie from Gibraltar." A sketch on paper of this subject, now in the Boston athenaeum, was made in 1787.  

A small picture of this he presented to West, and a second one he sold. A third, finished in 1789, was purchased by the Athenaum at Boston. Another, also small, was painted for William Sharp to engrave from, and with the key in Trumbull's autograph is now in Philadelphia. In 1787 and 1789 he was again in Paris, where he painted the portrait of Thomas Jefferson. He was commissioned in the summer of 1790, by the cor­poration of New York City, to paint a full-length portrait of Washington, and in 1791 he executed a likeness of George Clinton. These are in the city-hall, New York. Another full-length portrait of Washington, representing him on the even­ing before the battle of Princeton, was painted for the city of Charleston in 1792. But, a picture of Washington as president being preferred, Trumbull executed a second. The first, now at Yale, was considered by the artist the best portrayal of him "in his heroic military character." He also executed in 1794 portraits of Gen. and Mrs. Washington, in the National museum, Washington, D. C. During this time he was also collecting a valuable series of portraits for his historical paintings.

In May, 1794, he returned to England as secretary to John Jay, and in 1796 he was appointed fifth commissioner for carrying into execution the seventh article of the treaty of 1794. In June, 1804, he came again to the United States, settling in New York as a Portrait-painter. At this time were painted the portraits of John Jay and Alexander Hamilton for the city of New York, and Timothy Dwight and Stephen Van Rensselaer, which are at Yale. In 1817 he was commissioned by congress to paint historical pictures for the rotunda in the capitol. The subjects were "The Declaration of Independence," "The Surrender of Burgoyne," "The Surrender of Cornwallis," and "The Resignation of Washington." The pictures were completed in 1824, and exhibited in various cities. They have been made familiar by engravings (notably the " Declaration," by Asher B. Durand), and have been the subject of much criticism.

In 1816-'25 he was president of the American academy of fine arts. He subsequently projected a new series of historical pictures, but the paintings remained unsold. He was glad, therefore, to present his works to Yale, in return for an annuity of $1,000. In this final disposition of his worlds he made the condition that after his death the entire proceeds of the exhibition of the gallery were to be "perpetually appropriated toward defraying the expense of educating poor scholars in Yale college." A fire-proof gallery was erected by the college, and his pictures were arranged there under his own direction. On the completion of the new art-school building they were re­moved thither.

He removed to New Haven in 1837, but in 1841 returned to New York, where he remained until his death. Trumbull's fame rests mainly on the four paintings in the capitol, the "Battle of Bunker Hill," and "Death of Montgomery," which two pictures still stand unexcelled in American historical painting, and on such strong portraits as those of Washington and Alexander Hamilton. The miniature likenesses in some of his pictures are at times more successful than his large portraits, His paintings comprise numerous copies, historical and scripture subjects, and portraits, including, besides those already mentioned, those of John Adams (1797) ; Jonathan Trumbull and Rufus King (1800) ; and Christopher Gore (1800). Several of his works, especially portraits, are in the New York Historical Society's rooms, the City-Hall, New York, and other public institutions and private galleries, but most of them are in the gallery at Yale. There are five portraits of Trumbull -- one by himself, painted in 1833, two by Samuel Waldo and Matthew H. Jouett, of which one is in the old gallery at Yale, beneath which he is buried, a good cabinet full-length by George W. Twibill, in the National Academy, and one by Gilbert Stuart. A bust by Ball Hughes is at Yale. The most interest­ing account of Trumbull's life is found in his "Autobiography" (New York, 1841). See also Eliza­beth B. Johnson's "Original Portraits of Washington" (Boston, 1882), and an article by John Durand, in the "American Art Review" for 1881. William Dunlap's account, though full, is preju­diced and unjust. Thomas S. Cummings, in his "Historic Annals of the National Academy," gives a full account of the part Trumbull played in  opposing the formation of that institution. -- Edited A.C. Text  Copyright© 2001 by VirtualologyTM

 

 

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John Trumbull - The Early America Review, Summer 1996
... JOHN TRUMBULL: ARTIST OF THE REVOLUTION. "The greatest motive I had or have for
engaging in or for continuing my pursuit of painting has been the wish of ...

John Trumbull on the Internet
... John Trumbull Posters and Prints. Click on the gallery logo to see available
works by the artist: John Trumbull: Declaration of Independence. ...

John Trumbull
... Further reading: Irma B. Jaffe, John Trumbull: Patriot-Artist of the American Revolution
(Boston: New York Graphic Society, 1975) Helen A. Cooper, John Trumbull ...

Today in History: June 6
... John Trumbull. ... See images of more paintings by Trumbull. Search on John
Trumbull in Touring Turn-of-The-Century America, 1880-1920. ...

Indian Sketches by John Trumbull
... Haven: Yale University Art Gallery, 1982) and The Works of Colonel John Trumbull,
Artist of the American Revolution, revised ed., by Theodore Sizer (New Haven ...

John Trumbull - Biography, auction records and results, ...
... 0 Active Bulletins on John Trumbull, Interested in Updates? CLICK HERE to
be alerted when AskART.com posts additional information on this artist. ...

JOHN TRUMBULL - PORTRAIT OF SAMUEL BLODGETT
... with him to use in the Death of General Mercer. See Theodore Sizer, ed. The Autobiography
of Colonel John Trumbull: Patriot-Artist, 1756-1843, New Haven, 1953. ...

Information about US FDC: 6 John Trumbull: American Artists ...
... Further Information about this issue: To honor John Trumbull (1756-1843), revolutionary
Patriot and Artist, who recorded many dramatic events of the Revolution ...

John Trumbull - Reference Page
... John Trumbull - Reference Page Galleries and Dealers.
Images. 1995-2001 Art in Context Center ...

John Trumbull Section of Art Expression
... The following table contains a list of the posters available by John Trumbull. Just
click on the "View/Order" hyperlink to view the image and/or order ...

Life of John Trumbull
... Letter from JOHN TRUmBULL, to the Speaker of the House of ... to form a proper surface
for the artist, together with the colors, oils, &c., employed by him ...

Trumbull John, American Masters, Masters, Artists, Art History ...
... The Visual Artist subcategories lead you to specialized information pertaining
to visual artists. You can browse in alphabetical order, by artistic medium ...

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... of the American Revolution (1975); Sizer, Theodore, The Works of Colonel John Trumbull:
Artist of the American Revolution, rev. ed. (1967); Trumbull, John, The ...

TCAnet:Exhibition Hall:Gallery:SBC1:Alice Trumbull Mason:Artist
... Alice Trumbull Mason (1904 - 1971). ... Nationality: American Alice Trumbull Mason was
one of the ... nonobjective art. A descendant of John Trumbull, one of the great ...

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