John Singleton Copley

John Singleton Copley RA (1738 – Sept. 9, 1815); Anglo-American painter, active in both colonial America and England. He was probably born in Boston, MA... He is famous for his portrait paintings of wealthy and influential figures in colonial New England, depicting in particular middle-class subjects. His portraits were innovative in their tendency to depict artifacts relating to these individuals' lives.

...Except for a family tradition that speaks of his precocity in drawing, nothing is known of Copley's schooling or of the other activities of his boyhood. His letters, the earliest of which is dated Sept. 30, 1762, reveal a fairly well-educated man.

...Copley was about 14 ... when he made the earliest of his portraits now preserved, a likeness of his half-brother Charles Pelham....

...By this time he had begun to demonstrate his genius for rendering surface textures and capturing emotional immediacy.

Copley's fame was established in England by the exhibition, in 1766, of A Boy with a Squirrel, which depicted his half-brother, Henry Pelham, seated at a table and playing with a pet squirrel.

...The income which Copley earned by painting in the 1760s was extraordinary for his town and time. It had promoted the son of a needy tobacconist into the local aristocracy. The foremost personages of New England came to his painting-room as sitters. He married, on Nov. 16, 1769, Susanna Farnham Clarke... The union was a happy one, and socially notable. Mrs. Copley was a beautiful woman of poise and serenity whose features are familiar through several of her husband's paintings.

...In his last 15 years, though painting persistently, Copley experienced much depression and disappointment.

...The deterioration of his talent was gradual, however...

...According to art historian Paul Staiti, Copley was the greatest and most influential painter in colonial America, producing about 350 works of art.
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First Collected by

Daniel Pirani


Contributors 4

Collectors 8

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