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Over the last two years or so, I’ve been slowly editing and updating some of the older Picture Study Aids I’ve offered and today I’m announcing that the new version of the John Singleton Copley Picture Study Aid and Art Prints is now available! The updated version includes seven pieces and I also now have a printed booklet available for him as well!
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” (which is one of the pieces 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 [Sir Joshua] 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 Europe “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 feel the 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 a few years ago, 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, key topics about seven of his paintings, resources for further reading (which you can also find on the Living Art Book Archive), and seven printable versions of the paintings (without artist names or titles) at the end.
The pieces covered include:
- Boy with Squirrel (Henry Pelham) (1765)
- Paul Revere (1768)
- The Ascension (1775)
- Copley Family (1776)
- John Adams (1783)
- The Death of the Earl of Chatham (1779-80)
- George IV When Prince of Wales (1809)
I also have high-quality printed versions of the guide itself as well as professionally printed copies of art as well available in the shop.
I used quite a few different books and online resources while I was researching this Picture Study Aid, 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 an account of a few days in the childhood of Copley when he first began painting called Boston Bells by Elizabeth Coatsworth. This is entirely fictional, but the author did use references from Copley’s writings about his childhood. It also includes references to the Boston Knowles Riot of 1747. This can be hard to find but if your local library has it, it’s a fun, immersive little read. It’s also available on Internet Archive.
(All of these resources are also listed on the John Singleton Copley Living Art Book Archive page.)
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)
You can get your copy of the John Singleton Copley Picture Study Aid at the link below!