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I know I said I might be quiet over the next few weeks, but before I go radio silent for the CMER, I have one more post for you with a new picture study aid! I will also preface this post by saying that I am still planning to post a picture study aid for John William Waterhouse (scheduled for Term 3 this year on the Ambleside Online Art Study rotation), hopefully fairly soon as I know Term 3 is coming fast! The offering I have today is one that I actually prepared for my homeschool co-op last year and finally got around to posting now. Copley is also planned for Term 1 of the Ambleside Online 2027-28 school year, but some of the selections are different so if I’m still at this at that time (which I hope to be!), I’ll update it to include those as well.
John Singleton Copley was another artist about whom I knew very little other than that he painted the iconic Paul Revere image above. I only briefly studied him in college as is the case with so many artists I’ve been able to get to know better through writing these picture study aids. This is continuing a mother’s education at its best!
I’ve mentioned before that I really enjoy portraiture and have a soft spot for realist-style art, so I enjoyed exploring Copley’s work. I found it interesting that while he was attempting to make a name for himself as an artist by appealing to the British, traveling throughout Europe and eventually staying in England, his country of birth was attempting to make a name for herself as an independent nation by fighting against the British. In 1765, at the age of twenty-seven, Copley sent his “Boy with a Flying Squirrel” (included in this picture study aid) to London to be shown at an exhibition for the Society of Artists and received the following feedback:
In May 1766 the art critic for the London Chronicle remarked that “a Boy with a Flying Squirrel” by Copley was “very clever” and that “with proper application, there is no doubt of his making a good painter.” A few months later Copley received two letters bearing the news that the British reaction to his work was generally favorable. In one, his friend Captain R. G. Bruce, who had transported the painting to London for him, quoted the opinion rendered by Reynolds, the leading English portraitist of the day. Reynolds said “that in any collection of painting it will pass for an excellent Picture, but considering the Dissadvantages…you had laboured under, that it was a very wonderfull Performance,” despite “a little Hardness in the Drawing, Coldness in the Shakes, An over minuteness.” He maintained further that the young American could become “one of the first Painters in the World” provided that he come to study in “before [his] Manner and Taste were corrupted or fixed by working in [his] little way at Boston.” (from John Singleton Copley in America by Carrie Rebora, p. 215)
And while I do think it’s important to learn about great artists and study their work regardless of where they’re from, I’m glad that later American painters did not need to impress the people across the pond in order to gain legitimacy as artists!
As a sidenote…. when we were deciding which Copley pieces to look at in our co-op last year, I asked one of my former art history professors which was his favorite Copley and he immediately replied with the flying squirrel. 🙂
This 25-page picture study aid includes a brief summary of Copley’s childhood (from Famous Painters of America by Joseph Walker McSpadden ), key topics about six of his paintings, resources for further reading, and six printable versions of the paintings (without artist names or titles) at the end.
I used quite a few different books and online resources while I was researching this picture study aid (you can find them all in the Sources section of the PDF), but I think the best volume I can recommend is John Singleton Copley in America by Carrie Rebora (also available for free on Google books). It’s a beautiful book that includes all of his early paintings in large format.
If you are looking for a biography, A Revolution in Color: The World of John Singleton Copley by Jane Kamensky is extremely thorough and well-researched.
I found two children’s books that contain information about Copley. The first is The Child’s Book of American Biography by Mary Stoyell Stimpson (free on Kindle), published in 1915, which includes only a short biography and no paintings. The other is a work of biographical fiction called The Double Adventure of John Singleton Copley by James Thomas Flexner (published in 1969). I did not read the latter, though it did look interesting, so if you choose to include it in your picture study, you may want to pre-read.
This is by no means an exhaustive analysis or study of each piece, and that is intentional. I tried to keep it all very simple in the spirit of there being, “no talk about schools of painting, little about style; consideration of these matters comes in later life, the first and most important thing is to know the pictures themselves. As in a worthy book we leave the author to tell his own tale, so do we trust a picture to tell its tale through the medium the artist gave it. In the region of art as else-where we shut out the middleman.” (vol 6 pg 216)
Also, please keep in mind that I’m not even close to being a Charlotte Mason expert! And though I do have a BA in art history, I’m definitely not an expert in that area either. 🙂
For enjoying art with children in general, I also included a page of art sources that I’ve found particularly good:
Online Art Collections
For younger children, I highly recommend the Mini-Master series by Julie Merberg and Suzanne Bober. Also, the Touch The Art series by Julie Appel and Amy Guglielmo.
For both younger and older children, the Come Look With Me series by Gladys S. Blizzard is excellent.
You may download it below for personal use in your own homeschool (Ambleside Online, another Charlotte Mason curriculum, or otherwise). If you have any feedback or suggestions, I would love for you to fill out my feedback form!