John Singleton Copley

American , 1875 - 1950

Born in Boston, Copley was a largely self-taught artist despite being the stepson of Peter Pelham, a London- trained engraver of mezzotints. Producing work of a standard and clarity previously unseen in America, Copley produced a prolific record of New England, painting both locals and revolutionary heroes of the time. Feeling removed from European artistic development, and the precarious economic situation in the US caused him to leave for England in 1774.

Though Copley had left America as the country's first great portrait painter he was to find a different artistic niche in England. This was partly owing to the artistic precedents set in England by the portrait painters, Benjamin West and Sir Joshua Reynolds; for Copley was no longer the unique painter that he had been in his homeland. Shifting his interest to large-scale historical paintings, Copley's work was to set a precedent for the later Romantics in London. Despite his success, Copley's later years were marked by depression and melancholy, partly owing to a yearning for his native America.

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