John Singleton Copley

American, 1738–1815

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John Singleton Copley

American, 1738–1815

193
Followers
Biography

John Singleton Copley’s portraits of colonial New Englanders, including Paul Revere and John Hancock, are considered among the best examples of early American art. In painting “visual biographies”—portraits that subtly indicated the sitter’s social position through narrative details—Copley endeared himself to his patrons by depicting them as they desired to project themselves. Embodying the same entrepreneurial spirit underlying the success of many of his working-class subjects, the self-taught Copley built a name for himself by introducing private exhibitions and promoting mass-market prints of his own work. While known primarily for his oil paintings, Copley was also a pioneering American pastelist, having requested a set of the “best Swiss crayons” from the Swiss painter Jean-Étienne Liotard. Upon emigrating to London in 1774, he concentrated on historical narrative scenes—as in his famed Watson and the Shark (1778)—then considered to be the highest form artistic expression.

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Career Highlights
Learn more about artist insights.
Group
Group show at a major institution
The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), and 3 more
Institution
Collected by a major institution
Tate, and 1 more
Publication
Reviewed by a major art publication
The Guardian
Biography

John Singleton Copley’s portraits of colonial New Englanders, including Paul Revere and John Hancock, are considered among the best examples of early American art. In painting “visual biographies”—portraits that subtly indicated the sitter’s social position through narrative details—Copley endeared himself to his patrons by depicting them as they desired to project themselves. Embodying the same entrepreneurial spirit underlying the success of many of his working-class subjects, the self-taught Copley built a name for himself by introducing private exhibitions and promoting mass-market prints of his own work. While known primarily for his oil paintings, Copley was also a pioneering American pastelist, having requested a set of the “best Swiss crayons” from the Swiss painter Jean-Étienne Liotard. Upon emigrating to London in 1774, he concentrated on historical narrative scenes—as in his famed Watson and the Shark (1778)—then considered to be the highest form artistic expression.

Career Highlights
Learn more about artist insights.
Group
Group show at a major institution
The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), and 3 more
Institution
Collected by a major institution
Tate, and 1 more
Publication
Reviewed by a major art publication
The Guardian
Articles Featuring John Singleton Copley
I’m Obsessed with the Pet Squirrel in This John Singleton Copley Portrait
Sep 10th, 2019
I’m Obsessed with the Pet Squirrel in This John Singleton Copley Portrait
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