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MFA Images: American History

  • MFA Images: American History - Slide

  • Triumphal Entry of General George Washington

    about 1870

    After Michael Angelo Wageman, British, active 1837–1879 British

    Description
    Details

    Dimensions

    Image: 11.5 x 15.8 cm (4 1/2 x 6 1/4 in.) Sheet: 17.6 x 25.9 cm (6 15/16 x 10 3/16 in.)

    Medium

    Engraving

    Classification

    Prints

    Accession Number

    2006.1301

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    Prints and Drawings

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  • George Washington

    mid-19th century

    Artist Gabriel Miesse, 1807–1886

    Description
    Details

    Dimensions

    Platemark: 25.3 x 20.2 cm (9 15/16 x 7 15/16 in.); Sheet: 33 x 35.3 cm (13 x 13 7/8 in.)

    Medium

    Engraving

    Classification

    Prints

    Accession Number

    2006.1296

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    Prints and Drawings

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  • Andrew Jackson

    mid-19th century

    Artist Gabriel Miesse, 1807–1886

    Description
    Details

    Dimensions

    Platemark: 20.4 x 14.8 cm (8 1/16 x 5 13/16 in.); Sheet: 32 x 19.8 cm (12 5/8 x 7 13/16 in.)

    Medium

    Engraving

    Classification

    Prints

    Accession Number

    2006.1297

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    Prints and Drawings

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  • Washington Entering Trenton

    about 1870

    Attributed to Michael Angelo Wageman, British, active 1837–1879...

    Description
    Details

    Dimensions

    Image: 20.7 x 27.7 cm (8 1/8 x 10 7/8 in.); Sheet: 26.5 x 33 cm (10 7/16 x 13 in.)

    Medium

    Brush and gray wash on paper

    Classification

    Drawings

    Accession Number

    2006.1300

    Collections

    Europe , Prints and Drawings

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  • George Washington in British Regular uniform and two Officers

    1825–50

    Henry Warren, American, born in England, active about 1822–1860...

    Description
    Details

    Dimensions

    Sheet: 19 x 26 cm (7 1/2 x 10 1/4 in.)

    Medium

    Watercolor on paper

    Classification

    Watercolors

    Accession Number

    2006.1303

    Collections

    Americas , Prints and Drawings

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  • Red Coat Shooting a Colonial

    1825–50

    Henry Warren, American, born in England, active about 1822–1860...

    Description
    Details

    Dimensions

    Sheet: 22.2 x 30.8 cm (8 3/4 x 12 1/8 in.)

    Medium

    Watercolor on paper

    Classification

    Watercolors

    Accession Number

    2006.1302

    Collections

    Americas , Prints and Drawings

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  • George Washington

    after 1805

    Gilbert Stuart, American, 1755–1828 American

    Description
    Details

    Dimensions

    66.67 x 53.97 cm (26 1/4 x 21 1/4 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on panel

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    42.543

    Collections

    Americas

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  • The Death of General Warren at the Battle of Bunker's Hill,...

    after 1815–before 1831

    John Trumbull, American, 1756–1843 American

    Description

    Called in his day the “patriot-artist,” John Trumbull served in the Continental Army from 1775 to 1777 and became known for his images of the Revolutionary War—a prime source of material for contemporary history paintings. After resigning his commission, he went to London to study with Benjamin West, returning to the United States with the plan to immortalize the country’s struggle for independence in a series of paintings based on the critical events of the conflict and thus create to a new iconography for the new nation. He ultimately completed eight compositions, and in 1817 Congress awarded him a commission for four large canvases to decorate the United States Capitol.
    The Death of General Warren at the Battle of Bunker’s Hill, 17 June 1775 was the first Revolutionary War subject that Trumbull completed. (The scene was not chosen for the Capitol, however.) Joseph Warren [95.1366], perhaps today less well known than Paul Revere [30.781], John Hancock [L-R 30.76d], or Samuel Adams [L-R 30.76c], was one of the key players in the events leading up to the outbreak of war. A popular and innovative physician—among other things, he advocated inoculation and cleanliness in the treatment of his patients—Warren plunged into politics in the late 1760s as an author of persuasive anti-Crown literature, an orator of eloquent speeches, and an underground leader of the growing revolutionary movement. He accepted a commission as a major general on June 14, 1775, but it was as a volunteer that he was killed three days later at the Battle of Bunker Hill.

    Warren’s heroism immediately captured the imagination of the American public. He was so idolized that in the decade following his death there were more towns and streets named after him than after George Washington. John Trumbull, who himself was at Bunker Hill, immortalized the tragedy in dramatic fashion in a composition that, like Benjamin West’s iconic Death of General Wolfe (1770, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa), refers to old master images of the Lamentation of Christ. In the thick of the turbulent battle, Warren collapses in the arms of a comrade who holds off a further bayonet thrust. Actual participants, both American and British, in the surrounding fray are recognizable, including William Howe, Henry Clinton, and William Prescott (who allegedly gave the order to his American soldiers not to fire until “you see the whites of their eyes”). Trumbull also included two African American enlisted men, representing the significant participation of black soldiers in the event. When Abigail Adams viewed the original sketch for this composition she claimed her “blood shivered” at the sight, so vivid was Trumbull’s depiction of the tragedy. [1]He painted several versions of the subject; the Museum’s descended in the Warren family.

    Notes
    1. Abigail Adams to Mrs. John Shaw, March 4, 1786, in Letters of Mrs. Adams, the Wife of John Adams, ed. Charles Francis Adams (Boston, 1840), 324.

    This text was adapted from Elliot Bostwick Davis et al., American Painting [http://www.mfashop.com/9020398034.html], MFA Highlights (Boston: MFA Publications, 2003).

    Details

    Dimensions

    50.16 x 75.56 cm (19 3/4 x 29 3/4 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on canvas

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    1977.853

    Collections

    Americas

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  • Alexander Hamilton

    1806

    John Trumbull, American, 1756–1843 American

    Description
    Details

    Dimensions

    77.79 x 62.55 cm (30 5/8 x 24 5/8 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on canvas

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    94.167

    Collections

    Americas

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  • The Passage of the Delaware

    1819

    Thomas Sully, American (born in England), 1783–1872 American

    Description

    Admired for his lively brushwork, Thomas Sully was the leading portrait painter in Philadelphia in the second quarter of the nineteenth century. Historical subjects such as this one were rare in his oeuvre of well over two thousand portraits. Sully studied first with a succession of miniature painters, including his brother Lawrence. In 1807 he moved from Virginia to New York City, and later that year he traveled to Boston to meet the portraitist Gilbert Stuart. He settled permanently in Philadelphia in 1808 but soon afterwards made a trip to London to study with Benjamin West. In England, Sully also familiarized himself with paintings produced by other contemporary artists. He was especially influenced by the fluid style of Sir Thomas Lawrence’s portraits.
    The Passage of the Delaware was commissioned by the state of North Carolina for the Senate Hall of the State House in Raleigh—one of many contemporary history paintings sponsored by the young American government. According to the register of paintings that Sully kept, he began the canvas on August 7, 1819, and finished it a little over four months later on December 15 (some three decades earlier than Emmanuel Leutze’s more famous version of the subject at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York). Sully had suggested the subject, “the passage of the Delaware, preparatory to the battle of Princeton,” to the governor of North Carolina. [1]This event, a turning point for the American military during the Revolution, took place on Christmas night 1776. General George Washington and his troops unexpectedly crossed the dangerously ice-clogged Delaware River from Pennsylvania to New Jersey in a snow storm to surprise the English forces. They engaged the next day at the Battle of Trenton, a crucial victory for the Americans. Paying close attention to accounts of the unfolding of events that fateful December night, Sully depicted the moment before George Washington dismounted to join his lieutenants in crossing the river; the general has sent a brigade with artillerymen across first, as evidenced by the cannon visible over the crest of the hill. Sully’s image of Washington is that of the composed and decisive leader, dramatically highlighted and isolated from the surrounding flurry of activity.

    Sully’s painting was never hung in the State House. Although Sully had corresponded with the North Carolina governor regarding the dimensions of his canvas, he had already begun painting by the time he received a reply. The final composition was too large to fit in any of the spaces of the Senate Hall. Instead, shortly after its completion, the artist sold the painting to John Doggett, a Boston frame maker who also exhibited pictures; Doggett made the current frame and showed the painting to the public. It was purchased from Doggett before 1841 by the Boston Museum—no relation to the Museum of Fine Arts, but rather a theater with a picture gallery located on Tremont Street—where it remained until 1903, when the owners gave it to the MFA.

    Notes
    1. Governor William Miller to Daniel L. Peck, Esq., Raleigh, North Carolina, April 19, 1817, quoted in Philipp P. Fehl, “Thomas Sully’s Washington’s Passage of the Delaware: The History of a Commission,” Art Bulletin 55, no. 4 (December 1973): 596.

    This text was adapted from Elliot Bostwick Davis et al., American Painting [http://www.mfashop.com/9020398034.html], MFA Highlights (Boston: MFA Publications, 2003).

    Details

    Dimensions

    372.11 x 525.78 cm (146 1/2 x 207 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on canvas

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    03.1079

    Collections

    Americas

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  • Head of Washington

    about 1795–98

    Charles Willson Peale, American, 1741–1827 American

    Description

    By the late 18th century, George Washington, first the Commander-in-chief of the victorious Continental Army and subsequently the first president of the United States, was the most famous person in America and one of the most renowned men in the world. Many artists took his likeness, but Charles Willson Peale was one of the first and most persistent, painting more than seventy likenesses of Washington during his career. Peale painted seven life portraits of Washington, beginning in 1772 when Washington was a colonel in the colonial militia, and ending in 1795, when he was midway through his second term as president. The "Head of Washington" is one of Peale's replicas of the canvas he painted in 1795; the original is in the New-York Historical Society. In addition to the MFA's painting, Peale completed at least seven other replicas of the 1795 canvas between 1795 and 1798; most are in private collections. (For a complete discussion of Peale's portraits of Washington and his replicas, see Charles Coleman Sellers, "Portraits and Miniatures by Charles Willson Peale," Philadelphia: Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, vol. 42, 1952, pp. 216-241.)

    Peale had temporarily ceased painting in 1795 and was devoting his attention to his natural history museum in Philadelphia. When Henry William De Saussure, director of the United States Mint, asked him to portray George Washington, Peale convinced De Saussure to give the commission to his seventeen-year-old son Rembrandt instead. The elder Peale did persuade Washington to pose, and, in order to smooth the way during the sittings, Peale decided to join Rembrandt and to paint Washington's portrait as well, intending to use it in his own museum. Thus both father and son showed up for the first meeting in the fall of 1795. At later appointments, James Peale, Charles Willson's brother, and Raphaelle and Titian Peale, two other sons, joined them. Painter Gilbert Stuart, who happened on the scene, quipped to Mrs. Washington that her husband was being "Pealed all around" (Lillian B. Miller, "In Pursuit of Fame: Rembrandt Peale 1778-1860," Washington, D.C.: National Portrait Gallery, 1992, p.32). While they were working, Charles Willson Peale sat to the right of Rembrandt, and thus in his portrait, Washington is turned about three quarters to the left. In Rembrandt's likeness, a replica of which is also in the MFA's collection (30.474), Washington is seen at a slightly different angle-somewhat more full-faced.

    Peale's 1795 image of Washington differs from his other six life portraits in that it is the only one painted when Washington was president and the only one where he is shown in civilian dress. In Peale's other life portraits, Washington wears his military uniform, commemorating his service on the battlefield and as a general. Peale, himself a former soldier, took great pains to render the uniform correctly, even updating the insignia of rank in his later replicas as Washington received more stars on his epaulets. In contrast, in the 1795 portrait there is little to take the viewer's attention away from Washington's face, and Peale appears to have concentrated on making that visage worthy of the leader of the new republic. The extent of Peale's idealization is evident in comparison with Rembrandt Peale's more straight forward likeness from the same sitting (National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C.). The elder Peale produced an image of a dignified, serious, and intelligent leader.

    Despite the many efforts of the Peales, it was Gilbert Stuart who produced the most enduring images of the first president of the United States (1980.1). However, Peale's portrait is notable for its classical idealism, as art historian Lillian Miller has noted, describing "a combination of particularity of image and a recognition of the meaning of the individual in public, or universal, terms, an image that is timeless and therefore iconic" (Lillian B. Miller and David C. Ward, eds., "New Perspectives on Charles Willson Peale," Pittsburgh: Smithsonian Institution and University of Pittsburgh Press, 1991, p. 99). Peale biographer Charles Coleman Sellers also found much to admire in the elder Peale's 1795 portrait, writing that the artist "caught a sense of movement, awareness, and intelligence which dignifies the face far more than that 'force of expression and effect' sought by later painters" (Sellers, p. 241).

    The MFA's replica is on a small panel, made after the much larger (29 by 23 ½ inch) original on canvas. There is one other small panel replica of the same portrait (private collection), but these are unusual in Peale's work. Peale painted "Head of Washington" for Mrs. John Callahan of Annapolis, Maryland, with whose family Peale often stayed when he visited the city. Peale had already completed portraits of John Callahan; Sarah Buckland Callahan and her daughter; and two Callahan daughters (all at the Hammond-Harwood House, Annapolis). The MFA's "Head of Washington" descended in the Callahan family for three generations, and was then acquired by Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner. Sumner (74.30), known primarily as a vociferous advocate for the emancipation of slaves, was also a patron of the arts. In 1874, he bequeathed 94 paintings to the MFA, many of which were sold to buy plaster casts for the new museum to be built in Copley Square in Boston. Peale's bust of George Washington and Lucas Cranach's "The Lamentation" (74.28) are among the works that remain in the collection.

    Janet Comey

    Details

    Dimensions

    19.05 x 15.24 cm (7 1/2 x 6 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on panel

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    74.29

    Collections

    Americas

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  • George Washington

    1810

    Gilbert Stuart, American, 1755–1828 American

    Description
    Details

    Dimensions

    66.04 x 54.93 cm (26 x 21 5/8 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on panel

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    29.788

    Collections

    Americas

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  • Paul Revere

    1813

    Gilbert Stuart, American, 1755–1828 American

    Description
    Details

    Dimensions

    71.75 x 57.15 cm (28 1/4 x 22 1/2 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on panel

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    30.782

    Collections

    Americas

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  • Playing Old Soldier

    1863

    Winslow Homer, American, 1836–1910 American

    Description

    During the American Civil War, Winslow Homer visited many Union soldiers' camps and a few battlefields on assignment as artist-correspondent for Harper's Weekly. In addition to his sketches for the magazine, Homer painted several humorous depictions of the soldiers' camp life. In "Playing Old Soldier," he shows a young volunteer being examined by a doctor on the left while an orderly on the right records the encounter. "Old soldier," as the phrase was sometimes used during the Civil War, referred to a soldier who malingered in order to avoid work or combat. Much like a young child pretending to be sick in order to stay home from school, this young soldier is feigning illness so as to evade some unpleasant or dangerous duty. There were thousands of soldiers under the age of sixteen fighting in the Civil War, and boys as young as eleven served as drummers and fifers.
    Although many of Homer's Civil War paintings were humorous, others were serious and captured the violence of modern warfare as well as the poignancy of the soldiers' lives. Homer's skill and sensitivity in depicting these subjects stood out, especially when compared to other artists' renderings of the Civil War. His grasp of the simple, telling gesture and his accomplished draftsmanship led to early success and election to the National Academy of Design, America's most prestigious art organization, by the age of twenty-nine.

    This text was adapted from Carol Troyen and Janet Comey," Children in American Art" (Nagoya/Boston Museum of Fine Arts, 2007, in Japanese).

    Details

    Dimensions

    40.64 x 30.48 cm (16 x 12 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on canvas mounted on Masonite

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    43.129

    Collections

    Americas

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  • An Incident of the Revolution

    1831

    Jacob Eichholtz, American, 1776–1842 American

    Description
    Details

    Dimensions

    123.51 x 168.59 cm (48 5/8 x 66 3/8 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on canvas

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    47.1149

    Collections

    Americas

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  • The Landing of William Penn

    about 1850

    Thomas Birch, American (born in England), 1779–1851 American

    Description
    Details

    Dimensions

    86.04 x 121.92 cm (33 7/8 x 48 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on canvas

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    47.1179

    Collections

    Americas

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  • Lincoln Crushing the Dragon of Rebellion

    1862

    David Gilmour Blythe, American, 1815–1865 American

    Description
    Details

    Dimensions

    45.72 x 55.88 cm (18 x 22 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on canvas

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    48.413

    Collections

    Americas

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  • Life-mask of George Washington

    1741–1828

    After Jean-Antoine Houdon, French, 1741–1828 French

    Description

    Life-mask of George Washington. Plaster.

    Details

    Medium

    Plaster

    Classification

    Sculpture

    Accession Number

    88.655

    Collections

    Europe

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  • Pat Lyon at the Forge

    1826–27

    John Neagle, American, 1796–1865 American

    Description

    This portrait of leading Philadelphia businessman and inventor Patrick Lyon is unusual for its era because of its depiction of a subject engaged in manual labor. John Neagle was only twenty-nine when he received the commission for this work. He had begun his career by apprenticing to a coach decorator and then studied painting with his fellow Philadelphia portraitist Bass Otis. Neagle eventually began to work in the Romantic style under the combined influence of Gilbert Stuart, whom he visited in Boston in 1825, and Philadelphian Thomas Sully (Neagle later married Sully’s daughter). Through them, he learned to compose large-scale portraits in the European old master tradition. Neagle’s indebtedness to Stuart in particular is evident in the painterly surface of Pat Lyon and in the atmospheric darkness of the blacksmith shop. However, the picture’s ties to European styles end there.
    Patrick Lyon was a wealthy, successful man when he commissioned Neagle to paint him, but he asked the artist to depict him as a blacksmith, the vocation in which he had begun his career. In the early nineteenth century, people who could afford such large-scale, heroic images of themselves usually preferred to be depicted in formal dress and surrounded by expensive objects, implying their aristocratic status. In contrast, Lyon explicitly told Neagle that he did “not wish to be represented as what I am not—a gentleman.”[1]Lyon’s prejudice against gentlemen stemmed from the fact that early in his career he was wrongly accused of theft by a group of Philadelphia bankers and imprisoned. Consequently, he preferred to be depicted as an honest workman rather than as a member of an upper class that he associated with injustice. Lyon also insisted that the jail in which he had been held appear in his portrait—Neagle included a view of its distinctive cupola in the upper left-hand corner. Despite the exceptional nature of this painting, it was widely admired in its time and gained the young artist many commissions. It is still Neagle’s most famous work.

    Notes
    1. William Dunlap, History of the Rise and Progress of the Arts of Design in the United States, vol. 2, (New York: George P. Scott and Co., 1834), 375.

    This text was adapted from Elliot Bostwick Davis et al., American Painting [http://www.mfashop.com/9020398034.html], MFA Highlights (Boston: MFA Publications, 2003).

    Details

    Dimensions

    238.12 x 172.72 cm (93 3/4 x 68 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on canvas

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    1975.806

    Collections

    Americas

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  • The Battle of Bunker Hill

    about 1776–77

    Winthrop Chandler, American, 1747–1790 American

    Description

    The battle of Bunker Hill was a recent event when Winthrop Chandler painted this panoramic view of the 1775 skirmish to decorate a cousin’s house in Pomfret, Connecticut. Although Chandler was primarily a portrait painter, he is also credited with about nine landscapes, among the earliest pastoral subjects in the folk idiom known in America. This scene was painted on a fireboard, a screen used to cover a fireplace opening during the summer months; it was later installed above the fireplace as an overmantel. Although Chandler may have spent time in Boston during the 1760s, the Connecticut-based artist was not present at the battle of Bunker Hill. Nor, apparently, was his composition inspired by a print. This depiction is instead Chandler’s own notion of the military engagement, one of the most costly British victories of the war.
    While Chandler’s view is not accurate from either a military or a topographical standpoint (the spectator seems to be looking down over Charlestown from Breed’s Hill, where the battle actually took place), it conveys the drama of the event through telling detail. Wounded soldiers and riderless horses are scattered across the foreground. British ships blast the shoreline with cannonfire, while tiny figures cling to the rigging or flail in the water. At right, a house bursts into flame, a prelude to the bombardment of Charlestown. And, spaced neatly throughout the picture are the three forts that guarded the harbor, each proudly flying the Grand Union flag. The flag, with thirteen stripes signifying the original colonies and the crosses of Saint George and Saint Andrew representing the Crown, suggests a date for the picture: it was the colonial standard until June 14, 1777, when the Continental Congress adopted the Stars and Stripes.

    This text was adapted from Gerald W. R. Ward et al., American Folk (Boston: MFA Publications, 2001).

    Details

    Dimensions

    88.58 x 136.21 cm (34 7/8 x 53 5/8 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on panel

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    1982.281

    Collections

    Americas

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  • George Washington

    after 1824

    Rembrandt Peale, American, 1778–1860 American

    Description
    Details

    Dimensions

    73.02 x 60.01 cm (28 3/4 x 23 5/8 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on canvas

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    30.474

    Collections

    Americas

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  • George Washington

    1796

    Gilbert Stuart, American, 1755–1828 American

    Description

    At the time Gilbert Stuart painted the portraits of George and Martha Washington [1980.2], he was the foremost portraitist in the United States. He was, in effect, the unofficial painter to the new nation. He portrayed many leading political figures and wealthy citizens, and his sitters also included James Monroe, James Madison, and John Adams [1999.590]. Born in Rhode Island, Stuart had studied with Benjamin West in London, developed a fluid painting style based on contemporary English portraiture, and then successfully competed for commissions with British artists. He returned to the United States in 1792 and established studios in both Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. He also worked in New York before permanently settling in Boston in 1805.
    This most famous image of George Washington was commissioned from Stuart along with its pendant of Martha Washington shortly before the president retired from public service. Both portraits were painted in Germantown, just outside of Philadelphia, in 1796. Stuart never delivered the portraits. Washington’s popularity as a national hero escalated after his death, and Stuart used this painting of the president as the model for the numerous replicas ordered from him over the years. One visitor to the new United States commented, “Every American considers it his sacred duty to have a likeness of Washington in his home, just as we have images of God’s saints.”[1]Stuart, however, reportedly referred to the image irreverently as his hundred dollar bill—the price he charged for a copy. Over sixty copies survive, and the portrait ultimately became the source for the face of Washington (in reverse) on the U.S. $1 bill.

    Frames for both Washington portraits were made by John Doggett, a cabinetmaker, frame maker, picture dealer, and entrepreneur, when the Boston Athenaeum purchased them from Stuart’s estate in 1831. Doggett also owned and framed Thomas Sully's gigantic Passage of the Delaware [03.1079].

    Notes
    1. AvrahmYarmolinsky, Picturesque United States of America, 1811, 1812, 1813: Being A Memoir on Paul Svinin, Russian Diplomatic Officer, Artist, and Author (New York: W. E. Rudge, 1930), 33–34.

    This text was adapted from Elliot Bostwick Davis et al., American Painting [http://www.mfashop.com/9020398034.html], MFA Highlights (Boston: MFA Publications, 2003).

    Details

    Dimensions

    121.28 x 93.98 cm (47 3/4 x 37 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on canvas

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    1980.1

    Collections

    Americas

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  • Martha Washington (Martha Dandridge Custis)

    1796

    Gilbert Stuart, American, 1755–1828 American

    Description

    At the time Gilbert Stuart painted the portraits of Martha and GeorgeWashington [1980.1], he was the foremost portraitist in the United States. He was, in effect, the unofficial painter to the new nation. He portrayed many leading political figures and wealthy citizens, and his sitters also included James Monroe, James Madison, and John Adams [1999.590]. Born in Rhode Island, Stuart had studied with Benjamin West in London, developed a fluid painting style based on contemporary English portraiture, and then successfully competed for commissions with British artists. He returned to the United States in 1792 and established studios in both Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. He also worked in New York before permanently settling in Boston in 1805.

    This most famous image of Martha Washington (1731–1802) was commissioned by her from Stuart along with its pendant of George Washington shortly before the president retired from public service to return with his wife to their plantation at Mount Vernon. The portraits were painted in Germantown, just outside of Philadelphia, in 1796. Mrs. Washington was sixty-five years old when Stuart painted her; she appears in a modest lace cap that speaks to her preference for the resumption of a quiet life rather than one filled with elaborate occasions of state. Stuart never finished or delivered the paintings, making use of his likeness of the president to create numerous replicas. Martha Washington, despite traditional reports that she did not care for Stuart’s depiction of her husband, tried repeatedly to acquire them, to no avail. Stuart’s representation of George Washington provided the source for his image on U.S. dollar bill; his depiction of Martha was also once used on currency—her face appeared on the $1 silver certificate in 1886.

    Frames for both Washington portraits were made by John Doggett, a cabinetmaker, frame maker, picture dealer, and entrepreneur, when the Boston Athenaeum purchased them from Stuart’s estate in 1831. Doggett also owned and framed Thomas Sully’s gigantic Passage of the Delaware [03.1079].

    This text was adapted and expanded by Erica E. Hirshler from Elliot Bostwick Davis et al., American Painting[http://www.mfashop.com/9020398034.html], MFA Highlights (Boston: MFA Publications, 2003).

    Details

    Dimensions

    121.92 x 94.3 cm (48 x 37 1/8 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on canvas

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    1980.2

    Collections

    Americas

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  • Paul Revere

    1768

    John Singleton Copley, American, 1738–1815 American

    Description

    Paul Revere is Copley’s only finished portrait of an artisan dressed in shirtsleeves and shown at work. Revere is shown half-length, seated behind a highly polished table, and casually attired. He cradles his chin in his right hand and regards the viewer as if he has just looked up from the teapot in his left hand; the pot is finished but remains undecorated, and the engraving tools at Revere’s elbow attest to the work yet to come. When Copley painted Revere’s portrait, his sitter was an accomplished, well-established silversmith and master of the rococo style, both in engraving and in three-dimensional hollowware such as teapots [35.1775]. He completed the Sons of Liberty Bowl [49.45], now considered one of the United States’ most cherished historical treasures, the same year Copley captured his likeness.
    Copley’s image of Revere is unprecedented not only in his own oeuvre but also in American colonial painting. Though Copley had produced a few portraits of craftsmen, his usual patrons were clergymen and merchants and their wives. He first depicted an artisan with the attributes of his trade in one of his earliest portraits, Peter Pelham (?) (private collection), dated about 1754. Like Revere, the subject is seated at a table strewn with tools, but this craftsman wears a jacket, stock, and patterned waistcoat. The more formal attire makes the sitter appear posed rather than caught in the middle of his work. Peter Pelham (?) bears striking similarities to the mezzotint John TheophilusDesaguliers [M20149] by Copley’s stepfather, Peter Pelham. [1]Copley may have referred to Pelham’s mezzotint and also to his own Peter Pelham (?) for the composition, pose, and other details of Paul Revere. Both mezzotint and early portrait, like Paul Revere, offer half-length views of figures seated behind tables with tools; each of these subjects, like Revere, is turned slightly to the side, right arm leaning on a table, left hand holding an object—a magnifying glass in the case of Desaguliers and an engraving tool and burin in the case of the sitter presumed to be Pelham—and each man looks straight out at the viewer. The print is closer to Paul Revere in some respects, however. The table in the mezzotint, like Revere’s table, is aligned parallel to the picture plane and not at a slightly awkward angle as in Peter Pelham (?); the complicated gathers of Revere’s sleeve seem to be derived directly from those of Desaguliers’s sleeve; and both Desaguliers’s magnifying glass and Revere’s teapot complement the sitters’ faces and reflect light. In conceiving of Paul Revere, Copley may also have been inspired by the European tradition of depicting artists and craftsmen with their tools and the objects they create as attributes or by Northern Renaissance portrayals of jewelers, goldsmiths, and bankers, images he would have known through prints.

    The wigless Revere wears a plain white linen shirt with no cravat and only a hint of a frill on the right sleeve. The shirt is open, revealing an undershirt or possibly an untied stock beneath. His blue-green waistcoat, made of wool or matte silk, is likewise unfastened; two gold buttons are visible below Revere’s right hand. The open shirt and the waistcoat worn without a jacket are associated with work clothes. However, other aspects of his costume, such as its cleanliness and the gold buttons (possibly used here, along with the teapot, to advertise Revere’s products), do not accurately reflect the garments Revere actually wore to ply his trade. Moreover, the polished table is not the craftsman’s workbench. Thus, in his portrait of Revere, Copley presented an idealized image of the artisan at work.

    Though Paul Revere is now one of the most celebrated of American portraits, the circumstances of its execution are uncertain. It is known that Copley had met Revere by 1763, when the painter ordered a gold bracelet from the smith, and it is recorded in Revere’s account book (The Revere Waste and Memoranda Book, Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston) that Copley purchased frames and cases for his miniatures between 1763 and 1767. However, the occasion for the commission of this portrait and the identification of the client who paid for it remain mysteries. The date inscribed on the painting—1768—enhances the iconographic significance of the teapot, both as an aesthetic and a political symbol. Teapots were among the most complex objects Revere made; they represented his craft in its highest form. According to Revere’s account book, he made a total of nine teapots from 1762 to 1773. Of those nine, six were made between 1762 and 1765, one in 1768, and the other two in 1773. Revere’s production of teapots had declined by 1768 in response to the Townshend Acts, which imposed duties on a variety of imported goods including tea. The teapot, then, was a provocative attribute for Revere, especially given his radical Whig politics.

    Unlike Copley’s portraits of Samuel Adams [L-R 30.76c] and John Hancock [L-R 30.76d], which were displayed in Faneuil Hall, Boston, and were translated into prints, Paul Revere did not become a public image during the Revolution or in its aftermath. The Copley portrait remained in the Revere family after the sitter’s death in 1818, apparently relegated to an attic. According to family tradition, Revere’s daughter Harriet so disliked the informality of the portrait that she had her nephew, Frederick Ballestier Revere, an amateur artist, make a copy using only the face from the original; he replaced the shirtsleeves with a red uniform and a gorget of crossed cannon, a testament to Paul Revere’s military service (Morristown National Historical Park, New Jersey).

    The Revere family’s interest in the Copley portrait seems to have revived at about the time Henry Wadsworth Longfellow published his poem “Paul Revere’s Ride” in 1861, for it was reported that the painting had been restored by 1875. The portrait was not publicly displayed until 1928, when it was first loaned to the MFA; Revere’s great-grandsons gave the painting to the Museum in 1930. The current popularity of the portrait seems to have begun with the publication of Esther Forbes’s 1942 Pulitzer Prize–winning biography of Paul Revere, which used the Copley portrait as the frontispiece. [2]

    Notes
    1. See Trevor J. Fairbrother, “John Singleton Copley’s Use of British Mezzotints for his American Portraits: A Reappraisal Prompted by New Discoveries,”Arts Magazine 55 (March 1981): 122–30.
    2. Esther Forbes, Paul Revere and the World He Lived In (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1948).

    This text was adapted and expanded by Karen E. Quinn from her own entry in John Singleton Copley in America, by Carrie Rebora et al., exh. cat. (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art in association with Harry N. Abrams, 1995).

    Details

    Dimensions

    89.22 x 72.39 cm (35 1/8 x 28 1/2 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on canvas

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    30.781

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    Americas

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  • John Hancock

    1765

    John Singleton Copley, American, 1738–1815 American

    Description

    John Hancock (1737–1793) was at the threshold of his social, economic, and political destiny when Copley painted him in 1765. His origins had been poor and thus disenabling in the rigidly class-stratified society of mid-eighteenth-century Massachusetts. His father, the Reverend John Hancock, an inconsequential clergyman in North Braintree, died in 1744, leaving a widow, seven-year-old John, and two other children. But John Hancock—alone of his family—was rescued by his uncle Thomas, then the richest merchant in Boston, who adopted him, educated him at Boston Latin School and Harvard College, and attempted to train him in the social and business habits of the House of Hancock, the largest transatlantic shipping firm in Boston. He became a full partner in his uncle’s business in 1763 and sole owner after Thomas died in 1764.
    Hancock commissioned Copley to paint his portrait for his house, a magnificent mansion on Beacon Hill that he inherited from his uncle. In this austere image, Hancock wears a dark blue frock coat trimmed in gold braid to accentuate the line of buttons and the edges of the plain wool material. On his head is a modest bob wig. He sits on an outdated Queen Anne chair of about 1740. His environment is almost extinguished, bare except for a piece of hanging drapery and a covered table on which rest an open account ledger and a small inkstand.

    The costume and setting are unexpected for a man who enjoyed the luxurious prerogatives of extreme wealth. King Hancock, as he would later come to be known, was conspicuous in the 1760s for wearing silk-velvet suits, driving around Boston in a bright yellow carriage, and stocking his mansion with the finest fabrics, furniture, glass, and Madeira wines that he could import from England. Equally surprising is the depicted action: Hancock working in a business ledger, seemingly ready to make or having just finished making entries in it. If anything, he neglected the House of Hancock as well as financial matters in general.

    His uncharacteristic engagement with the account book has been interpreted as an expression of Calvinistic virtues, especially the idea that material rewards in life are tangible proofs of God’s divine blessing. [1]This ascetic image of Hancock may also be considered in political terms. His economic empire was inextricably connected to politics and he had been using that political and economic capital since 1762, running for public office in Boston—testing his power in a period marked by increasing attacks by men such as Samuel Adams on the entitlements and extravagances of the highest classes. The assaults on the privileged reached a crescendo when the houses of some of the elite were ransacked during the Stamp Act crisis of 1765, the year Copley first painted John Hancock. The violence against flamboyant elites may have inspired the young merchant to negotiate with Copley for a disciplined image of a workingman in a stark setting—an image Hancock could use as part of an effort to claim political authority in an era in which Americans were rejecting deference and embracing the new republican ideal of the man of the people.

    Copley painted two more portraits of Hancock between 1770 and 1772 (Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston, and private collection), when the businessman was increasingly identified as a radical Whig. These are identical, waist-length likenesses and, like the earlier canvas, are simple unadorned images, representing Hancock in bare settings. Between 1775 and 1777, when Hancock served as president of the Continental Congress, one of the later Copley portraits was rendered in mezzotint by Joseph Hiller.

    Scholars have claimed that one of the Hancock portraits hung with Copley’s painting of Samuel Adams [L-R 30.76c] in the drawing room of the Hancock mansion. Others have located the 1765 picture in the parlor over the fireplace. However, the probate inventory taken at Hancock’s death, though it shows there were 128 pictures in the house, does not specifically mention any Copley portrait. The painting was hung in Faneuil Hall in the nineteenth century.

    Notes
    1. Wayne Craven, Colonial American Portraiture: The Economic, Religious, Social, Cultural, Philosophical, Scientific, and Aesthetic Foundations (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1986), 324–26.

    This text was adapted from Paul Staiti’s entry in John Singleton Copley in America, by Carrie Rebora et al., exh. cat. (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art in association with Harry N. Abrams, 1995).

    Details

    Dimensions

    124.8 x 100 cm (49 1/8 x 39 3/8 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on canvas

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    L-R 30.76d

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    Americas

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  • Abraham Lincoln

    Modeled in 1918, cast in 1987

    Daniel Chester French, 1850–1931

    Description

    Modeled 1918, cast 1987

    Details

    Dimensions

    81.28 x 62.23 x 68.58 cm (32 x 24 1/2 x 27 in.)

    Medium

    Bronze

    Classification

    Sculpture

    Accession Number

    1988.285

    Collections

    Americas , Contemporary Art

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  • President Abraham Lincoln

    dated 1909

    Description

    Obv: ABRAHAM / LINCOLN around a nude bust of Lincoln facing right.
    Rev: 1809 - 1909 on a banner at the top, WITH MALICE / TOWARD NONE / WITH CHARITY / FOR ALL at right and above an eagle and shield within a small wreath, to the left are large branches of palmetto and laurel with a ribbon reading E · PLURIBUS / UNUM.
    Edge: plain.

    Details

    Dimensions

    Diameter and weight: 62 mm, 113.9 gm (2 7/16 in., 4.02 oz.)

    Medium

    Bronze

    Classification

    Numismatics , Medals

    Accession Number

    2005.1149

    Collections

    Americas

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  • A Battle Scene from Knickerbocker's History of New York

    1838

    John Quidor, American, 1801–1881 American

    Description
    Details

    Dimensions

    68.58 x 87.95 cm (27 x 34 5/8 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on canvas

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    48.468

    Collections

    Americas

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  • Indians near Fort Laramie

    about 1859

    Albert Bierstadt, American (born in Germany), 1830–1902 American

    Description
    Details

    Dimensions

    33.97 x 48.89 cm (13 3/8 x 19 1/4 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on paper mounted on paperboard

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    48.411

    Collections

    Americas

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  • Winter, Richmond, Indiana

    1859–60

    Lefevre James Cranstone, British, active in 1845–1867 British

    Description
    Details

    Dimensions

    Sheet: 15 x 34.3 cm (5 7/8 x 13 1/2 in.)

    Medium

    Watercolor on paper

    Classification

    Watercolors

    Accession Number

    51.2517

    Collections

    Europe , Prints and Drawings

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  • Hudson Bay Trading Post on Flathead Indian Reservation, Montana...

    1865–67

    Peter Peterson Tofft, Danish (active in the United States and...

    Description
    Details

    Dimensions

    Sheet: 15.2 x 23.2 cm (6 x 9 1/8 in.) Mount: 25.7 x 33 cm (10 1/8 x 13 in.)

    Medium

    Watercolor on paper

    Classification

    Watercolors

    Accession Number

    53.2464

    Collections

    Europe , Prints and Drawings

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  • Snake Indian Pursuing a Crow Horse Thief

    about 1860

    Alfred Jacob Miller, American, 1810–1874 American

    Description
    Details

    Dimensions

    Sheet: 19 x 27.5 cm (7 1/2 x 10 13/16 in.)

    Medium

    Watercolor over and under graphite with gum arabic additions on paper

    Classification

    Watercolors

    Accession Number

    58.1149

    Collections

    Americas , Prints and Drawings

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  • Attack at Seminary Ridge, Gettysburg, July 1863

    1863

    Unidentified artist, American, 19th century

    Description
    Details

    Dimensions

    Sheet: 50.8 x 71.4 cm (20 x 28 1/8 in.)

    Medium

    Pastel on prepared board (sandpaper)

    Classification

    Pastels

    Accession Number

    60.1083

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    Prints and Drawings

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  • Grant's First Attack at Vicksburg

    May 19, 1863

    Unidentified artist, American, 19th century

    Description
    Details

    Dimensions

    Sheet: 50.8 x 59.1 cm (20 x 23 1/4 in.)

    Medium

    Graphite pencil and watercolor on paper

    Classification

    Watercolors

    Accession Number

    61.362

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    Prints and Drawings

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  • Departure of the 7th Regiment, N.Y.S.M., April 19, 1861

    1861

    George Hayward, American (born in England), about 1800–1872(?)...

    Description
    Details

    Dimensions

    Sheet: 36.7 x 51.3 cm (14 7/16 x 20 3/16 in.)

    Medium

    Graphite pencil, transparent and opaque watercolor on paper

    Classification

    Watercolors

    Accession Number

    51.2785

    Collections

    Americas , Prints and Drawings

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  • Blue Coats in Bivouac on Lookout Mountain, Tennessee

    1863

    Unidentified artist, American, 19th century

    Description
    Details

    Dimensions

    Sheet: 24.8 x 30.8 cm (9 3/4 x 12 1/8 in.)

    Medium

    Watercolor on paper

    Classification

    Watercolors

    Accession Number

    55.802

    Collections

    Prints and Drawings

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  • Fort Hatteras Just Before the Surrender

    1861

    Theodor Kaufmann, American (born in Germany), 1814–1896 American

    Description
    Details

    Dimensions

    Sheet: 22.2 x 29.7 cm (8 3/4 x 11 11/16 in.)

    Medium

    Graphite and watercolor on paper

    Classification

    Watercolors

    Accession Number

    55.858

    Collections

    Americas , Prints and Drawings

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  • Lincoln Reading the Emancipation Proclamation to his Cabinet

    about 1862–63

    Alonzo Chappel, American, 1828–1887 American

    Description
    Details

    Dimensions

    Sheet: 41.0 x 55.7 cm (16 1/8 x 21 15/16 in.)

    Medium

    Grisaille oil on cardboard monochrome

    Classification

    Drawings

    Accession Number

    57.326

    Collections

    Americas , Prints and Drawings

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  • Admiral Porter's Gunboats Passing the Red River Dam, Louisiana

    1864

    James Madison Alden, American, active in 1860 American

    Description
    Details

    Dimensions

    Sheet: 40.2 x 74.1 cm (15 13/16 x 29 3/16 in.)

    Medium

    Watercolor on paper

    Classification

    Watercolors

    Accession Number

    59.927

    Collections

    Americas , Prints and Drawings

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  • Entrance of the Fifty-Fifth Massachusetts Regiment (Colored) into...

    1865

    Thomas Nast, American (born in Landau, Germany), 1840–1902...

    Description
    Details

    Dimensions

    Sheet: 36.2 x 54.0 cm (14 1/4 x 21 1/4 in.)

    Medium

    Oil over brush and brown wash, with graphite underdrawing, on heavy wove paper

    Classification

    Drawings

    Accession Number

    59.940

    Collections

    Americas , Prints and Drawings

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  • Bombardment of Forts Hatteras & Clark, By The U.S. Fleet

    1861

    Francis Garland, American, 19th century American

    Description
    Details

    Dimensions

    Image: 41.9 x 61.4 cm (16 1/2 x 24 3/16 in.) Sheet: 53.2 x 71.0 cm (20 15/16 x 27 15/16 in.)

    Medium

    Lithograph with printed blue and buff tints on paper

    Classification

    Prints

    Accession Number

    62.111

    Collections

    Americas , Prints and Drawings

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  • John Quincy Adams

    1796

    John Singleton Copley, American, 1738–1815 American

    Description

    In 1797, Abigail Adams, wife of John Adams (who had recently been inaugurated as the second president of the United States), quite unexpectedly received a shipping case. It contained this portrait of her twenty-eight-year-old son by John Singleton Copley, which Mrs. Susanna Copley had asked her husband to paint as a gift for her old friend. Abigail was delighted, and she wrote to John Quincy Adams on June 23, 1797, “It is allowed to be as fine a portrait as ever was taken, and what renders it peculiarly valuable to me is the expression, the animation, the true Character which gives it so pleasing a likeness . . . It is most elegantly Framed, and is painted in a masterly manner. No present could have been more acceptable.” [1]John and Abigail Adams had visited London in the 1780s and had become friends with the artist and his wife, and Copley had painted a full-length portrait of John Adams in 1783 (Harvard University Portrait Collection, Cambridge, Massachusetts). Copley had also painted a likeness of Abigail Adams, daughter of John and Abigail Adams, probably at about the same time, which was subsequently destroyed by fire.
    John Quincy Adams responded to his mother in a letter dated July 29, 1797, enlightening her on the circumstances under which his portrait had been painted:
    [Block quote]
    The history of the Portrait which you received last March was this. While I was here, the last time, Mr. Copley told me that Mrs. Copley had long been wishing to send you some token of her remembrance and regard, and thinking that a likeness of your Son, would answer the purpose, requested me to sit to him; which I did accordingly and he produced a very excellent picture, as you see. I had it framed in a manner which might correspond to the merit of the painting, and after I left this Country it was sent out by Mr. Copley. . . . It is therefore to the delicate politeness of Mr. and Mrs. Copley, that we are indebted for a present so flattering to me, and in your maternal kindness so acceptable to you. They are well, with all their family and continue to remember you with affection. [2]
    [/Block quote]

    John Quincy Adams was serving as the United States Minister to the Netherlands in 1796 when he sat for Copley, having been appointed by President George Washington in 1794. He was resident in London for several months in 1795 and 1796 to conduct negotiations concerning the ratification of the Jay Treaty, which resolved many issues remaining from the American Revolution. Even though Adams was a relatively young man, he had been chosen for these important positions because of his extraordinary education and upbringing. Since he had often accompanied his father when he was sent to Europe on government business, the younger Adams had traveled to France, Spain, the Low Countries, England, the German States, Russia, and Sweden by the time he was seventeen. Often John Adams’s business required lengthy stays, and John Quincy Adams had therefore been enrolled in schools in Paris and Amsterdam. Back in the United States in 1786, Adams entered Harvard College, was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, and graduated the following year. Subsequently he studied law in Newburyport, Massachusetts, and then began to practice law in Boston.

    Adams recorded seven sittings for his portrait from February to April 1796. Two of the notations provide an elucidating glimpse into the experience of posing for Copley. On March 4 he wrote: “At Mr. Copley’s all the morning sitting for my picture. Conversation with him political, metaphysical, and critical. His opinions not accurate, but well meaning.” On March 28: “At Mr. Copley’s all morning, sitting again for my picture. Stayed there too long gazing at his Charles [Charles I Demanding in the House of Commons the Five Impeached Members, 1782–95, City of Boston, in the custody of the Boston Public Library], and at a portrait of the three youngest princesses [The Three Youngest Daughters of King George III, 1785, Royal Collection, United Kingdom], a finely finished thing.” [3]

    In a stylish oval format, the portrait shows a rather debonair John Quincy Adams with powdered hair, dressed in a black frock coat with a white stock and a glimpse of a pink waistcoat. He is set against a red curtain and a crepuscular landscape. Copley carefully delineated Adams’s features but painted the costume and background with dashing and loose brushwork. Art historian James Flexner found the likeness “more handsome than interesting” and commented on the painterly style of the background: “Copley sketched in, very rapidly, a little landscape about a foot square. Sky, hill, and meadow are not drawn but indicated with sweeps of color. The autumn tree is a squiggle of green . . . Should we frame this landscape for itself, it would seem to be a mid-nineteenth-century work, so completely is form subordinated to color.” [4]John Quincy Adams demonstrates Copley’s ability to adjust his technique to suit the current taste. In London he had adopted a loose, Romantic style, a significant change from the more detailed, linear aspect of the paintings he completed in America.

    Shortly after the portrait was completed, Adams became engaged to Louisa Catherine Johnson in London. He went on to a brilliant political career, serving in the United States Senate, as Minister to Russia, as Minister to England, and as Secretary of State. In 1825 he was elected the sixth president of the United States, and after he lost his bid for re-election, he represented Plymouth, Massachusetts, in Congress for the rest of his life. Adams also went on to have his portrait painted by many of the leading artists of his day; in all he sat for at least sixty likenesses. Of all these portraits, Adams decided that “Copley’s Portrait of 1796, Stuart’s head of 1825, and Durand’s of 1836 . . . are the only ones worthy of being preserved, with the Busts by Persico, Greenough [92.2857a-b] and Powers.”[5]

    Notes
    1. Andrew Oliver, Portraits of John Quincy Adams and His Wife (Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1970), 38.
    2. Oliver, Portraits, 40.
    3. Adams quoted in Emily Ballew Neff, John Singleton Copley in England, exh. cat. (Houston: Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; London: Merrell Holberton, 1995), 172.
    4. James Thomas Flexner, The Light of Distant Skies, 1760–1835 (New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1954; New York: Dover, 1969), 55.
    5. Oliver, Portraits, 2.

    Janet L. Comey

    Details

    Dimensions

    76.52 x 63.5 cm (30 1/8 x 25 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on canvas

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    17.1077

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    Americas

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  • John Adams

    after 1783

    After John Singleton Copley, American, 1738–1815 American

    Description
    Details

    Dimensions

    51.43 x 34.61 cm (20 1/4 x 13 5/8 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on canvas

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    23.180

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    Americas

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  • War Ground

    1863

    Alfred Jacob Miller, American, 1810–1874 American

    Description
    Details

    Dimensions

    73.34 x 91.44 cm (28 7/8 x 36 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on canvas

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    48.454

    Collections

    Americas

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  • The Drummer Boy

    about 1862

    William Morris Hunt, American, 1824–1879 American

    Description

    Following the election of anti-slavery president Abraham Lincoln, the southern states seceded and formed the Confederate States of America. When the war began, both sides believed it could be quickly won, and patriotic feeling surged. This image, painted early in the war, shows a barefooted boy beating the drum for volunteer soldiers.

    Details

    Dimensions

    91.76 x 66.36 cm (36 1/8 x 26 1/8 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on canvas

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    66.1055

    Collections

    Americas

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  • Lt. Huntington Frothingham Wolcott

    1867

    William Morris Hunt, American, 1824–1879 American

    Description
    Details

    Dimensions

    154.94 x 76.83 cm (61 x 30 1/4 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on canvas

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    67.76

    Collections

    Americas

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  • Emblem of Sargis Lodge

    1880s

    Charles Sidney Raleigh, American (born in England), 1830–1925...

    Description
    Details

    Dimensions

    111.76 x 91.44 cm (44 x 36 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on canvas

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    69.1362

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    Americas

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  • General Francis Marion Inviting A British Officer to Share His...

    about 1810

    John Blake White, American, 1781–1859 American

    Description
    Details

    Dimensions

    63.5 x 76.83 cm (25 x 30 1/4 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on canvas

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    1971.155

    Collections

    Americas

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  • Engagement Between the "Constitution" and the...

    1813

    Thomas Birch, American (born in England), 1779–1851 American

    Description

    Thomas Birch was America’s first marine painter and thus the founder of a long and great tradition. He studied under his father, William, a painter and engraver, and in 1794 the two emigrated from England to Philadelphia. The War of 1812 inspired the younger Birch to produce a series of over a dozen naval pictures based on actual battles, each executed within months of the event—exemplars of the type of contemporary history painting initiated by Benjamin West. The unexpected American victories in the war against Great Britain—the first test of the nation as a military force—were a source of great pride to its citizens and provided a worthy subject for history painters to promote the new republic. Birch’s compositions were as accurate as he could make them. He carefully rendered the ships’ portraits and also included details of the fighting gleaned from interviews with participating crewmembers. His paintings were acclaimed not only for their sense of immediacy, but also for their appeal to the patriotic fervor of the young country.
    This painting documents the first great American naval victory of the War of 1812, the defeat of the British frigate Guerrière by the USS Constitution off the coast of Halifax, Nova Scotia, on August 19, 1812. At the right, the helpless Guerrière, her last mast broken off and crashing into the ocean, is driven up against the Constitution, whose cannonfire relentlessly continues to pound the British ship. American flags proudly wave above the conflict, while the British banner sinks into the waves. This was Birch’s first War of 1812 subject, and it established his reputation.

    The USS Constitution got her nickname, “Old Ironsides,” during this very battle. A British sailor, upon observing that their cannonballs appeared to bounce off of the ship (her hull is made of layers of oak up to twenty-five inches thick), exclaimed, “Huzzah, her sides are made of iron!”[1]The Constitution went on to win other engagements in the War of 1812. The oldest active ship in the United States Navy, she is permanently docked at Charlestown Navy Yard in Boston.

    Notes
    1. Naval History and Heritage Command, “USS Constitution: History,” accessed August 30, 2011, http://www.history.navy.mil/ussconstitution/history.html [http://www.history.navy.mil/ussconstitution/history.html].

    This text was adapted from Elliot Bostwick Davis et al., American Painting [http://www.mfashop.com/9020398034.html], MFA Highlights (Boston: MFA Highlights, 2003).

    Details

    Dimensions

    71.12 x 92.07 cm (28 x 36 1/4 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on canvas

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    1978.159

    Collections

    Americas

    Not On View
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  • Sheridan's Ride

    1871

    Thomas Buchanan Read, American, 1822–1872 American

    Description
    Details

    Dimensions

    73.34 x 60.32 cm (28 7/8 x 23 3/4 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on canvas

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    1983.594

    Collections

    Americas

    Not On View
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  • The Blanket Signal

    1909

    Frederic Remington, American, 1861–1909 American

    Description
    Details

    Dimensions

    68.58 x 101.6 cm (27 x 40 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on canvas

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    1993.554

    Collections

    Americas

    Not On View
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  • The Boston Massacre

    1770

    Paul Revere, Jr., American, 1734–1818 American

    Description
    Details

    Dimensions

    Framed: 36.8 x 33 x 2.9 cm (14 1/2 x 13 x 1 1/8 in.) Overall: 36.2 x 33cm (14 1/4 x 13in.) Other (Sight; Sight measurement of print): 26 x 21.9cm (10 1/4 x 8 5/8in.)

    Medium

    Engraving, hand-colored with watercolor and gold pigment by Christian Remick

    Classification

    Prints

    Accession Number

    67.1165

    Collections

    Americas , Prints and Drawings

    Not On View
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  • The Great Good Man

    1942

    Marsden Hartley, American, 1877–1943 American

    Description

    Although most of the American Scene painters rejected European modernism and radical abstract styles, Marsden Hartley embraced abstraction in his early years and found figurative painting near the end of his life. Born in Maine, Hartley had become part of Alfred Stieglitz's circle in 1910 and then spent several years traveling in Europe absorbing the modernist styles of Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Paul Cézanne, and Wassily Kandinsky. Until 1937 when he resettled in Maine, Hartley traveled in avant-garde circles, moving frequently from place to place in Europe and America. After trying out different subjects and styles throughout his career, he ended up reaffirming his Americanism by painting landscapes in Maine, New Mexico, and Gloucester, Massachusetts. In 1940 he explored that most American of subjects: Abraham Lincoln. Between the world wars, Lincoln's reputation grew to epic proportions, in part because of Carl Sandburg's folksy biography of him. Hartley painted three portraits in homage to the Civil War president, and he also wrote two poems about him: "American Ikon-Lincoln" and "A. Lincoln-Odd, or Even."

    Hartley painted "The Great Good Man" near the end of his career. His portraits of Lincoln were among a series of images of his heroes, including the artist Albert Pinkham Ryder and the seventeenth-century English poet John Donne. Larger than life, "The Great Good Man" is bold and iconic. Basing his painting on an 1862 photograph of Lincoln by Civil War photographer Matthew Brady, Hartley employed Cézannesque brushstrokes to create the planes of the president's face and rough strokes of black paint to convey his features, including the mole on his cheek and his almond-shaped eyes. Although academically trained, Hartley appreciated American folk art, which enjoyed a revival of interest during the early twentieth century. The bold color contrasts and graphic strength of "The Great Good Man" recall similar qualities in folk portraits of the nineteenth century. The palette of black, white, flesh tones, and striking blue for the background, the heroic scale of the painting, and the intentionally crude technique combine to form a memorable image of Lincoln and a triumph for Hartley in the year before his death.

    This text was adapted from Davis, et al., MFA Highlights: American Painting (Boston, 2003) available at www.mfashop.com/mfa-publications.html.

    Details

    Dimensions

    101.28 x 76.52 cm (39 7/8 x 30 1/8 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on Masonite

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    1990.376

    Collections

    Americas

    Not On View
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  • Scalp dance of the Dacotahs

    1850

    Seth Eastman, American, 1808–1875 American

    Description
    Details

    Dimensions

    Sheet: 22 x 30.5 cm (8 11/16 x 12 in.)

    Medium

    Watercolor on paper

    Classification

    Watercolors

    Accession Number

    52.1609

    Collections

    Americas , Prints and Drawings

    Not On View
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  • St. Ignatius Mission, Montana Territory

    1865–67

    Peter Peterson Tofft, Danish (active in the United States and...

    Description
    Details

    Dimensions

    Image:15.2 x 23.2 cm (6 x 9 1/8 in.) (pricked; laid down) Sheet: 10 1/4 x 16 in.

    Medium

    Watercolor on paper

    Classification

    Watercolors

    Accession Number

    53.2466

    Collections

    Europe , Prints and Drawings

    Not On View
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  • Sergeant William Russell, 5th Battalion, Royal Artiller

    1856

    Robert Howlett, English, 1831–1858 English

    Description

    Robert Howlett was one of Britain's earliest professional photographers. His wide-ranging practice included portraiture, landscape photography, and studies for painters. Commissioned in 1856 by Queen Victoria to make portraits of the heroes of the Crimean War, he posed Sergeant William Russell standing between the massive wheels of an artillery wagon, his arm draped over the cannon. In his left hand, Russell holds upright his rifle and a flag, probably his company colors. His face looks stricken but proud, and he wears a hero's medal on his chest. The manly realism and sophisticated composition make this image more than an individual portrait: Howlett has created an icon of the British Empire's military strength and the bravery of its men.

    Details

    Dimensions

    Image/Sheet: 23.5 x 18.6 cm (9 1/4 x 7 5/16 in.) Mount: 43.6 x 31.6 cm (17 3/16 x 12 7/16 in.)

    Medium

    Photograph, albumen print from wet collodion negative

    Classification

    Photographs

    Accession Number

    1992.513

    Collections

    Europe , Photography

    Not On View
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  • US Army Cavalry Regiment with Horses Standing on Giant Cedar

    around 1900

    Unidentified artist, American, 19th century

    Description
    Details

    Dimensions

    Sheet: 15.2 x 20.3 cm (6 x 8 in.)

    Medium

    Photograph, gelatin silver print

    Classification

    Photographs

    Accession Number

    2002.811

    Collections

    Photography

    Not On View
    More Info
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