Tuesday, February 28, 2017

John Singleton Copley 1738-1815 finally flees "backward" Boston to "enlightened" England

John Singleton Copley was born in Boston, on July 3, 1738, and died in London, on September 9, 1815. Although the son of Irish tobacconists was born in Boston, he was greatly influenced by his stepfather's knowledge of & association with English & European emigrant artists. Copley's stepfather, Peter Pelham, (1695-1751) was a London painter & engraver who taught art, manners, & merchandising to the talented youngster growing up amid his stepfather's collections of English portrait prints.

Pelham had immigrated to Boston in the 1720s, and placed "Proposals" for printing his engravings in the Boston News-Letter on February 27, 1728. He supplemented his painting & engraving income by teaching "Dancing, Writing, Reading, Arthemetick, Painting upon Glass and all sorts of Needlework."

1755 John Singleton Copley (1738-1815). Portrait of a Woman.

Pelham did not focus on educating only the young. The year that Copley's mother married the engraver, the Boston Gazette of September 20, 1748, noted, "Mr. Pelham's Writing and Arithmetick School near the Town House, (during the winter) will be open from candle light till nine in the evening, as usual, for the benefit of those employed in Business all the Day." Copley's stepfather Peter Pelham set about educating & refining Boston's up-and-coming merchants & artisans in part to create a client base for his artistic ventures.

1756 John Singleton Copley (American colonial era artist, 1738-1815) Lucretia Hubbard Towsend

In 1732, Pelham had initiated a a series of dance assemblies triggering the ire of one traditional Bostonian, who predicted that the assemblies would result in "immorality, pride, envy, and Biblical prodigality."

1761 John Singleton Copley (American colonial era artist, 1738-1815) Hannah Hill (Mrs. Samuel Quincy)

The conflict raged in the Boston Gazette from November 13 - December 4, 1732. Pelham & his supporters defended the assemblies as a school teaching not just dance but also proper behavior to Boston's citizens. Surely proper behavior would appeal to Puritan sensibilites.


1758-60 John Singleton Copley (American colonial era artist, 1738-1815) Eunice Dennie Burr

The young Copley's stepfather sought comfort in associating with fellow artists recently arrived in the colonies from England & the continent. He befriended fellow artist John Smibert (1688-1748) who painted portraits & copies of old master paintings as well as selling art prints & supplies in their Boston neighborhood.


1759-61 John Singleton Copley (American colonial era artist, 1738-1815) Dorothy Murray

After Copley's stepfather died when he was 13, Copley was eager for influences beyond traditional, Puritan Boston. He soon met another artist Joseph Blackburn (active 1752–1777) newly arrived in Boston, whose portraits reflected the late 17th century Lely-Kneller baroque style & the 18th century rococo style. Copley immediately recognized that Blackburn's style reflected just the influences, which Copley had begun to absorb from pouring over his stepfather's prints. Copley had inherited his stepfather's art tools in 1751, and he set about imitating rococo poses, compositions, & themes from Blackburn’s work & from those English prints.

1765 John Singleton Copley (American colonial era artist, 1738-1815) Elizabeth Deering Wentworth Gould (Mrs. Nathaniel Rogers)

At the beginning of his career, Copley was also influenced by artists working nearby in Boston: Joseph Badger (1707/8–1765), Robert Feke (about 1708–1751), & John Greenwood (1729–1792).


1758 John Singleton Copley (American colonial era artist, 1738-1815) Mrs. John Barrett

Copley learned to paint intricate layers of hair, flesh, textiles, & other props with dramatic contrasts of light & dark. He combined that realistic portrayal of his sitters with elegance & fantasy by borrowing settings, costumes, & compostions from 17th & 18th century English mezzotints and from neighboring painters.

1765 John Singleton Copley (American colonial era artist, 1738-1815) Katherine Russell (Mrs. Samuel Henley)

Young Copley was growing into perhaps the best artist in the 18th century colonies. His cleverness was exceeded only by his growing ego & by his longing to become part of that rarefied English art community he had heard so much about since childhood. In the colonies, Copley felt he was only an artisan working in a cultural wasteland.

1765 John Singleton Copley (American colonial era artist, 1738-1815) Mary Storer (Mrs Edward Green)

In Copley's colonial sphere, affluent Boston & New York merchant elite paid to have their likeness painted, so that's what Copley did. His literal depictions of the faces of his subjects, regardless of the fancy costumes & backgrounds Copley might invent for them, were exactly what the gentry colonists wanted.

1765 John Singleton Copley (American colonial era artist, 1738-1815) Mrs. Joseph Scott

These British Americans were becoming increasingly proud of America's exceptionalism & their personal individualism. Colonials realized that their Anglo American society, built on trade & accomplishment rather than tradition & aristocracy, was a world where familiar powers and institutions were shifting.


1765-67 John Singleton Copley (American colonial era artist, 1738-1815) Anne Erving, Mrs. Duncan Stewart

But Copley believed that a mere portrait painter was not a true artist who should possess a noble & lofty mind and paint historical allegories of grand purpose. He longed to be ranked among the enlightened artists abroad who sought to extol public virtue & broaden civilization through their work.

1767-69 John Singleton Copley (American colonial era artist, 1738-1815) Elizabeth Green (Mrs. Ebenezer Storer II)

He lamented in a letter, "A taste of painting is too much wanting...and was it not for preserving the resemblance of particular persons, painting would not be known in the place. The people generally regard it as no more than any other useful trade...like that of a carpenter, tailor, or shoemaker, not as one of the most Noble arts in the world. Which is more than a little Mortifying to me."

Colonial women & their fashion also were a little too commonplace for him. Copley complained to Pennsylvania expatriate Benjamin West, that in order to dress his female subjects in the latest styles, he would have to import the gowns himself from England.

1767 John Singleton Copley (American colonial era artist, 1738-1815) Mrs. George Turner

This wasn't exactly true, because Copley seemed to have no guilt about copying fashionable costumes from the latest English prints. And he wasn't shy about painting the same dress again & again on his too plain American sitters.

In 1765, hungry to hear some "informed" criticism of his work, he sent a portrait to London. Joshua Reynolds wrote him, "Considering the disadvantages you labored under, it is a very wonderful performance. … You would be a valuable acquisition to the art … provided you could receive these aids … before your manner and taste were corrupted or fixed by working in your little way in Boston."

1770 John Singleton Copley (American colonial era artist, 1738-1815) Ann Holmes (Mrs. William Coffin)

Copley wrote to his step-brother Peter Pelham, that he longed to travel across the Atlantic "to be heated with the sight of the enchanting Works of a Raphael, a Rubens, Corregio and a Veronese."

1770 John Singleton Copley (American colonial era artist, 1738-1815) Elizabeth Goldthwait (Mrs. Alexander Cumming)

Refering to Reynold's opinion of his work, already expatriated Benjamin West advised Copley to follow his example by making "a viset to Europe for this porpase (of self-improvement) for three or four years."


1770 John Singleton Copley (American colonial era artist, 1738-1815) Susanna Clarke (Mrs. John Singleton Copley)

In a letter to West in the fall of 1766, Copley referred to himself as "peculiarly unlucky in Liveing in a place into which there has not been one portrait brought that is worthy to be call'd a Picture within my memory." Copley finally sailed from Boston in the summer of 1774, to find his noble glory & the grandious recognition that he felt he so richly deserved in Europe & England, never to return.

1772 John Singleton Copley (American colonial era artist, 1738-1815) Dorothy Quincy (Mrs. John Hancock)

John Singleton Copley wrote to his half brother from England in 1775, "It is a pleasing reflection that I shall stand amongst the first of the artist’s that shall have led that Country to the Knowledge and cultivation of the fine Arts.”

1772 John Singleton Copley (American colonial era artist, 1738-1815) Dorothy Wendell (Mrs. Richard Skinner).

Writing to his wife Abigail a year later in 1776, John Adams, second president of the United States, described Copley as "greatest master that ever was in America." Copley certainly would have agreed.

Morning Madonna


Giuliano Bugiardini (1475-1577) (Also known as Giuliano di Piero di Simone) The Madonna and Child 1515-18

In this blog, I try to begin each day with a painting of the Madonna & Child. It centers me; connects me to the past; & encourages me to post some of the religious paintings which were a large part of the core of early Western art.  In the 4C, as the Christian population was rapidly growing & was now supported by the state, Christian art evolved & became grander to suit new, enlarged public spaces & the changing contemporary tastes of elite private clients.

Monday, February 27, 2017

John Singleton Copley 1738-1815 paints a few older women

1763 John Singleton Copley (American colonial era artist, 1738-1815) Sarah Tyler (Mrs. Samuel Phillips Savage)

1764 John Singleton Copley (American colonial era artist, 1738-1815) Miriam Kilby (Mrs. Samuel Hill)

Whether painting fancy matrons wearing the latest fashions or plainly dressed, more formal religious women, many of John Singleton Copley's paintings of older New England women seem more direct, thoughtful, & stronger than his portraits of younger women.

1764 John Singleton Copley (American colonial era artist, 1738-1815) Mrs. Anna Dummer Powell.

Copley lets us know that these are the surviving matriarchs who deserve the best upholstered chair in the candlelit parlor. Old age offers the leisure & independence to read & to reflect.

1766 John Singleton Copley (American colonial era artist, 1738-1815) Sarah Morecock (Mrs. Thomas Boylston)

Many are holding books, actively involved in the life of the mind & the world beyond Boston. Copley & his sitters decided to show that continuing to seek knowledge was important in 18th century New England whether for devotion, entertainment, or instruction.

1766 John Singleton Copley (American colonial era artist, 1738-1815) Mrs Sylvanus Bourne

1766 John Singleton Copley (American colonial era artist, 1738-1815) Ann Sargent (Mrs. Nathaniel Ellery)

1767-69 John Singleton Copley (American colonial era artist, 1738-1815) Mary Edwards (Mrs Ebenezer Storer)

1767 John Singleton Copley (American colonial era artist, 1738-1815) Hannah White (Mrs Robert Hooper)

1769 John Singleton Copley (American colonial era artist, 1738-1815) Mrs. Isaac Royall.

1770 John Singleton Copley (American colonial era artist, 1738-1815) Katherine Graves (Mrs James Russell)

1770 John Singleton Copley (American colonial era artist, 1738-1815) Relief Dowse (Mrs Michael Gill)

A very touching letter exits between artist John Greenwood, then in England, and John Singleton Copley still in Boston, about mothers growing old and wearing plain clothing. Greenwood wrote in 1770, that he would like Copley to paint a portrait of his mother and send it to Greenwood in London. "Portrait of my Hond. Mother, who resides at present nigh Marblehead, but is often in Boston, as I have of late enter'd into connections, that may probably keep me longer in London than I could wish, I am very desirous of seeing the good Lady's Face as she now appears, with old age creeping upon her...sitting in as natural a pose as possible...I shall observe that gravity is my choice of dress."

1771 John Singleton Copley (American colonial era artist, 1738-1815) Mary Charnock (Mrs. Humphrey Devereux, Mrs. Samuel Greenwood, Mrs. Joseph Prince)

1771 John Singleton Copley (American colonial era artist, 1738-1815) Mrs. Paul Richard (Elizabeth Garland)

1771 John Singleton Copley (American colonial era artist, 1738-1815) Elizabeth Lewis (Mrs Ezekiel Goldthwait)

1773 John Singleton Copley (American colonial era artist, 1738-1815) Hannah Fayerweather (Mrs John Winthrop).

Morning Madonna

Giovanni Bellini (c.1430-1516). Madonna and Child

In this blog, I try to begin each day with a painting of the Madonna & Child. It centers me; connects me to the past; & encourages me to post some of the religious paintings which were a large part of the core of early Western art.  In the 4C, as the Christian population was rapidly growing & was now supported by the state, Christian art evolved & became grander to suit new, enlarged public spaces & the changing contemporary tastes of elite private clients.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

John Singleton Copley 1738-1815 paints 3 Cousins in the same dress!! which he borrowed from an English print

1740s Thomas Hudson (English artist, 1701-79) Mary Finch, Viscountess Andover (1717-1803), wife of William, Viscount Andover at Kenwood House in London

1746 English Mezzotint by artist John Faber, Jr., after a painting by Thomas Hudson (English artist, 1701-79) of The Right Honourable Mary Finch, Viscountess Andover.

In 1763, these 3 sitters apparently planned with John Singleton Copley to be portrayed in nearly identical brown costumes & outdoor settings copied from John Faber's 1746 English mezzotint. Lucretia Chandler Murray & Mary Greene Hubbard were cousins. Mary Greene Hubbard was also a cousin of Katherine Greene Amory.

It is likely that Copley finished these portraits in his studio over a period of months. He probably painted heads & hands in person and added settings & costumes to his subjects at a later date. He was incredibly busy, and he often did not finish his portraits one at a time.

In October 1757, Capt. Thomas Ainslie of Nova Scotia wrote to Copley that he had received his portrait, which "gives me great Satisfaction." Ainslie and others invited Copley to come to Canada "where there are several people who would be glad to employ You." Copley replied: "I should receive a singular pleasure in excepting, if my Business was anyways slack, but it is so far otherwise that I have a large Room full of Pictures unfinished, which would ingage me these twelve months if I did not begin any others."

1763 John Singleton Copley (American colonial era artist, 1738-1815) Mary Greene (Mrs. Daniel Hubbard).

1763 John Singleton Copley (American colonial era artist, 1738-1815) Lucretia Chandler (Mrs John Murray).

1763 John Singleton Copley (American colonial era artist, 1738-1815) Katherine Greene (Mrs John Amory).

Morning Madonna


Madonna With A Quail by Pisanello (Italian artist, c 1395–c 1455), or Antonio di Puccio Pisano or Antonio di Puccio da Cereto

In this blog, I try to begin each day with a painting of the Madonna & Child. It centers me; connects me to the past; & encourages me to post some of the religious paintings which were a large part of the core of early Western art.  In the 4C, as the Christian population was rapidly growing & was now supported by the state, Christian art evolved & became grander to suit new, enlarged public spaces & the changing contemporary tastes of elite private clients.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

John Singleton Copley 1738-1815 borrows Turquerie & even a dog! from England's Joshua Reynolds

1759 Joshua Reynolds (English artist, 1723–1792) Caroline, Duchess of Marlborough

1760 English artist James McArdell after Sir Joshua Reynolds Lady Caroline Russell

1763 John Singleton Copley (American colonial era artist, 1738-1815) Mrs Jerathmael Bowers.

1754 Joshua Reynolds (English artist, 1723–1792) Mrs. Hugh Bonfoy

1755 Mezzotint by English artist James McArdell after Sir Joshua Reynolds Mrs. Bonfoy

Morning Madonna

Mosaic Artist, Italian Santi Maria e Donato, Murano, 1200-50

In this blog, I try to begin each day with a painting of the Madonna & Child. It centers me; connects me to the past; & encourages me to post some of the religious paintings which were a large part of the core of early Western art.  In the 4C, as the Christian population was rapidly growing & was now supported by the state, Christian art evolved & became grander to suit new, enlarged public spaces & the changing contemporary tastes of elite private clients.


Friday, February 24, 2017

John Singleton Copley 1738-1815 paints American Women in Blue

1763 John Singleton Copley (1738-1815).  Alice Hooper

John Singleton Copley is recognized as one of the first native-born painters to achieve success both at home and abroad. Alice Hooper, painted by Copley around 1763, depicts the seventeen-year-old daughter of the wealthiest man in Marblehead, Massachusetts, Robert “King” Hooper. Alice’s father commissioned this portrait to mark his daughter’s engagement to Jacob Fowle, Jr.

Copley knew from prints that women portrayed outdoors in gardens had become popular in 18th-century England. Isabella Fitzroy (née Bennet), Duchess of Grafton (1667-1723), Daughter of Earl of Arlington; Wife of Henry Fitzroy, 1st Duke of Grafton.by John Faber Jr, after Sir Godfrey Kneller, mezzotint, mid 18th century

Alice Hooper’s composition is one of a series of women depicted in fantasy garden settings, which are reportedly descended from John Faber’s 1691 engraving after Sir Godfrey Kneller’s Duchess of Grafton (ca. 1680).

1763 John Singleton Copley (1738-1815). Mary Turner (Mrs. Daniel Sargent).

The painting also provides vivid additional evidence of Copley’s working methods. Like many of his colonial American colleagues, the artist borrowed costumes & compositions from imported engravings of high-style British portraits. These appropriations were done with the full cooperation of his clients, who wanted to emulate the aristocrats of the mother country.

1763 John Singleton Copley (American colonial era artist, 1738-1815) Mercy Otis (Mrs James Warren).

Although he painted most of his gentlewomen in blue gowns in outdoor gardens in 1763-64, he had begun as early as 1758 to portray these images.

1758 John Singleton Copley (American colonial era artist, 1738-1815) Anne Fairchild Mrs Metcal Bowler Colby

1763 John Singleton Copley (American colonial era artist, 1738-1815) Hannah Loring.

1763 John Singleton Copley (American colonial era artist, 1738-1815) Anne Fairchild (Mrs Metcalf Bowler)

1763 John Singleton Copley (American colonial era artist, 1738-1815) Sarah Sargent (Mrs. Nathaniel Allen)

1763 John Singleton Copley (American colonial era artist, 1738-1815) Mary Tappan (Mrs Benjamin Pickman)

1763 John Singleton Copley (American colonial era artist, 1738-1815) ) Mercy Scollay, Lady in Blue

Although portrayed in a more conservative riding outfit, the following portrait might also be considered as part of this series.

c 1764 John Singleton Copley (American colonial era artist, 1738-1815) Mrs Epes Sargent Catherine Osborne