Top 10 Most Famous Paintings by John Singleton Copley
Who was John Singleton Copley?
John Singleton Copley was an American painter, conceived probably in Boston, Massachusetts and a child of Richard and Mary Singleton Copley, both Irish. He is famous for his portrait paintings.
Top 10 Famous Artworks by John Singleton Copley
- Watson and the Shark by John Singleton Copley
- A Boy with a Flying Squirrel by John Singleton Copley
- The Copley Family by John Singleton Copley
- The Death of Major Peirson by John Singleton Copley
- The Death of the Earl of Chatham by John Singleton Copley
- Daniel Crommelin Verplanck by John Singleton Copley
- Mrs. John Winthrop by John Singleton Copley
- Midshipman Augustus Brine by John Singleton Copley
- Epes Sargent by John Singleton Copley
- Mrs. Jerathmael Bowers by John Singleton Copley
Watson and the Shark by John Singleton Copley
When John Singleton Copley's dramatic painting of a shark attacking 14-year-old Brook Watson was displayed at London's Royal Academy in 1778, it made a stir. It had been 30 years since the attack was depicted.
Watson, an orphan, had made the mistake of jumping from a skiff while the ship he was crewing on was anchored in Havana Harbor.
He was attacked by a shark, which bit his right leg and dragged him underwater. The child came to the surface for a brief moment before the shark dragged him back down, cutting his right foot. Watson's comrades had nearly caught up with him by the time he reappeared.
Copley shows the boy's dramatic rescue: just as the shark was about to bite for the third time, a courageous crewmate using a boat hook fended it off.
A Boy with a Flying Squirrel by John Singleton Copley
Copley's half-brother Henry Pelham is depicted with a pet flying squirrel, a creature prevalent in colonial American portraiture as a mark of refinement.
The painting was sent to London for a 1766 exhibition while Copley was a Boston-based portraitist hoping to be acknowledged by his European colleagues. Artists like Joshua Reynolds praised it generally but criticized Copley's little size.
Later historians and critics regarded the picture as a watershed moment in both Copley's career and American art history. Exhibitions of the piece were held at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and the National Gallery of Art. It is held by the former as of 2021.
The Copley Family by John Singleton Copley
After moving to England from America in 1776, Copley created a colossal portrait of his family between 1776 and 1777. (now at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.).
He had arrived eighteen months before them in Europe, therefore the piece commemorated their wonderful reunion. It also showcased Copley's portrait painting abilities. His paintings got so well-known that he was able to sell reproductions based on them.
Copley painted this oil sketch twelve years after finishing the original work, using gray tones as a guide for the engraver. The prints were a wonderful investment because they not only sold but also generated new painting commissions. Mrs. Copley hugs John Jr., the future Lord Lyndhurst, tenderly.
Daughter Mary stands by her side, while the self-assured Elizabeth stands in front. Susanna, a London native, rests on Mrs. Copley's father, Richard Clarke's lap. Standing behind his family and dressed tastefully, Copley depicts himself as a sophisticated guy who has recently returned from a tour of Europe's major cities and tourist attractions.
His daughters are dressed in frocks with sashes wrapped loosely around the waist, a new trend for children. These costumes were not scaled-down replicas of adult clothes but rather were created to allow for movement, in line with new beliefs on the nature of childhood.
Copley modified his wife's haircut and clothing, as well as the settee, from rococo to the increasingly trendy neoclassical design, to adhere to current fashion.
The Death of Major Peirson by John Singleton Copley
This painting commemorates the British defense of Jersey against the French invasion in 1781, as well as the death of a young Major named Francis Peirson. The island of Jersey, which was once part of France, has been in English hands since 1066.
A small army of French soldiers landed on the island during the night of January 5-6, 1781, and marched against St Helier, the capital. They kidnapped Governor Moses Corbet and forced him to sign a surrender paper.
The British garrison and the Jersey militia, led by Major Peirson, mounted a counter-offensive, during which Peirson was killed by a French sniper.
Pompey, Peirson's black servant, turned on the sniper and shot him dead almost instantly. The French were defeated in combat in Royal Square.
The Death of the Earl of Chatham by John Singleton Copley
The Earl of Chatham's Death shows William Pitt, 1st Earl of Chatham's death on April 7, 1778, during a House of Lords debate on the American War of Independence. Chatham is surrounded by peers from the realm, and there are fifty-five portraits in the artwork.
Copley's picture also provides as a visual record of the Armada tapestries' appearance before they were destroyed in the 1834 Parliamentary Burning. Lord Chatham was the mastermind behind Britain's success in the Seven Years' War (1757–1763), during which the British gained dominance in America.
He was opposed to American independence, although sympathizing with American concerns and opposing the use of force to conquer the Americans.
Daniel Crommelin Verplanck by John Singleton Copley
Daniel Crommelin Verplanck (1762–1834) was born in New York and spent his early years in his family's lower Wall Street residence. He was Judith Crommelin's and Samuel Verplanck's eldest son (39.173).
He married Elizabeth Johnson, the daughter of Columbia's president while attending Columbia College (originally King's College). They were the parents of two children. Verplanck married Ann Walton, with whom he had seven children after she died in 1789.
They lived on Wall Street until 1803 before relocating to Fishkill, New York. From 1803 to 1809, he served in Congress as a representative for Dutchess County. Daniel was nine years old when the portrait was created in 1771.
The background is traditionally thought to represent a vista of Mount Gulian from the Verplanck country estate in Fishkill.
Mrs. John Winthrop by John Singleton Copley
Hannah Fayerweather was the daughter of Thomas and Hannah Waldo Fayerweather and lived from 1727 to 1790. On February 12, 1727, she was baptized in Boston's First Church.
She married Parr Tolman in 1745 and John Winthrop, a Harvard University professor of mathematics and natural history and a prominent astronomer, in 1756.
Although this image is typically dated 1774, a receipt dated June 24, 1773, indicates that it was painted the year before. Copley used a wonderfully mirrored tabletop in several paintings, including this one.
Midshipman Augustus Brine by John Singleton Copley
Admiral James Brine of the Royal British Navy's first wife, Jane Knight, gave birth to Augustus Brine (1769–1840).
Brine joined the Navy as a midshipman aboard the "Belliqueux" under his father's command when he was thirteen years old in 1782. He was promoted to lieutenant in 1790 and commander eight years later.
He captained the "Medway" during the War of 1812 and successfully captured the American brig "Syran." In 1822, he was promoted to rear admiral. In 1782, seven years after Copley came to England, he painted this portrait of young Brine.
Epes Sargent by John Singleton Copley
Copley's depiction depicts him casually reclining on a marble pedestal as a symbol of power; as carved stone monuments were uncommon in the colonies, this fictitious technique must have been derived from European pictures of potentates.
Mrs. Jerathmael Bowers by John Singleton Copley
By his marriage to Mary Watson in 1734, Joseph Sherburne (23.143) had a daughter, Mary Sherburne (1735–1799). She inherited a huge fortune as her father's lone heir.
She married Jerathmael Bowers, a wealthy and well-known Quaker from Swansea, Massachusetts, in 1763. They have three girls and one son.
This image is based on a British mezzotint by James McArdell, which was inspired by Sir Joshua Reynolds' portrait of Lady Caroline Russell from 1759. Copley faithfully replicated this figure, substituting the sitter's face for Lady Russell's.
The portrait is said to have been created around the time of the sitter's marriage in 1763. The painting's frame is assumed to be the original.
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