Monday, April 17, 2017

"Idol Worship"

9 x 12"
oil on panel

In the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, people flock to John Trumball's iconic Portrait of Alexandar Hamilton.  Children pull their parents over to see him.  The broadway play must take credit for most of the enthusiasm of Hamilton.

The artist, John Trumbull had just as an interesting, historically important life as Hamilton - born in Lebanon, Connecticut in 1756, the son of Jonathan Trumbull, a colonial Royal Governor who embraced the partriot cause and Faith Robinson, a descendant of Pilgrim leader John Robinson.

Trumball entered Harvard at age 15, with the parents' wishes for him to be a lawyer or minister and he immediately became friends with John Singleton Copley, the leading portrait painter of the Colonies and began studying painting to the chagrin of his father.  

When the Revolution fired up, Trumbull joined the Connecticut Regiment, witnessed the Battle of Bunker Hill, which later was a subject of one of his historical paintings - caught the attention of General George Washington, and served until 1777.  Determined to study painting in England, he delivered a letter of recommendation from Benjamin Franklin to study with the Official Painter of Historical Subjects to George III.  Not too shabby.  There he met a student, another famous portraitist, Gilbert Stuart.  All was going well until his arrest and incarceration for allegedly being a British spy until several known artists convinced the king to set him free and leave London.

If you've been to the U.S. Capitol, you saw several historical paintings by Trumbull, notably The Declaration of Independence, a commission urged on by Thomas Jefferson and John Adams.   The man lived a Forrest Gumpesque life through his adult life, meeting the right people at the right time.  He died in 1843, interred on the Yale Campus under the building which contained many of Trumbull's important works of art.  The inscription over his tomb includes the words 'To his Country he gave his SWORD and his PENCIL.'

Please click here for a larger view.

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