Painter and printmaker, John Trumbull was born in Lebanon, Connecticut. He was one of the first American artists to produce a series of history paintings depicting scenes of the Revolutionary War. Trumbull graduated from Harvard at the age of seventeen and during the Revolutionary War he served as aide-de-camp to General Washington, resigning in 1777. In 1780 he sailed to Europe and began studying painting with Benjamin West in London. As a result of his anti-revolutionary sentiments, he was arrested and forced to leave the country.
Trumbull returned to America in 1789 and in 1794 his experiences in London and Paris earned him an appointment as John Jay’s secretary in a diplomatic mission to London. Trumbull returned, once again, to the United States in 1804 and established a studio in New York City where he worked predominantly as a portraitist until 1808. In 1805 he became the President of the newly formed New York Academy of Fine Arts. In 1808 he was elected Vice-President of the American Academy of Fine Arts.
Trumbull’s social prominence earned him an appointment as the President of the American Academy of Fine Arts, a position he held until 1835. In 1831 he sold his extensive art collection to Yale University, providing the beginnings of the Yale University Art Gallery. When he died in 1843, Trumbull was buried at the foot of his portrait of George Washington in the Yale University Art Gallery.