John Trumbull American Painter 1756 AD - 1843 AD
June 6, 1756 – November 10, 1843). John Trumbull, artist, born in Lebanon, Conn., 6 June, 1756; died in New York city, 10 Nov., 1843, entered Harvard at the age of sixteen, and was graduated the following year, 1773. As he has said himself, his taste for drawing began to dawn early. While at college he studied Brooke Taylor's Jesuit's Perspective and William Hogarth's Analysis of Beauty, and after returning to Lebanon he painted the death of Paulus Emilius at Cannae. When the Revolutionary war opened, he joined the army as adjutant. His skill as a draughtsman enabled him to make drawings of the enemy's works at Boston, and Washington appointed him one of his aides-de-camp. He subsequently went northward with Gen. Horatio Gates as adjutant, with the rank of colonel, but on 22 Feb., 1777, being dissatisfied with date of his commission deputy adjutant-general, he resigned and resumed his art-studies. His love for military life had not left him, however, and when, in 1778, a plan was formed for the recovery of Rhode Island from the British, he joined Gen. John Sul1ivan during the enterprise as volunteer aide-de-camp. In May, 1780, he sailed for France, whence, after a short stay, he went to London, with a letter from Benjamin Franklin to Benjamin West. He was soon arrested for treason, but after an imprisonment of eight months he was released, on condition of leaving the kingdom, West and John Singleton Copley becoming his sureties. When the close of the war enabled him to go again to England in January, 1784, he resumed his studies with West. He visited Paris in 1785, and there began the composition of his Declaration of Independence. After a journey through the countries watered by the Rhine, he returned to London in the autumn of 1786. During this period he painted also his Sortie from Gibraltar. A sketch on paper of this subject, now in the Boston athenaeum, was made in 1787. A small picture of this he presented to West, and a second one he sold. A third, finished in 1789, was purchased by the Athenaum at Boston. Another, also small, was painted for William Sharp to engrave from, and with the key in Trumbull's autograph is now in Philadelphia. In 1787 and 1789 he was again in Paris, where he painted the portrait of Thomas Jefferson. He was commissioned in the summer of 1790, by the corporation of New York City, to paint a full-length portrait of Washington, and in 1791 he executed a likeness of George Clinton. These are in the city-hall, New York. Another full-length portrait of Washington, representing him on the evening before the battle of Princeton, was painted for the city of Charleston in 1792. But, a picture of Washington as president being preferred, Trumbull executed a second. The first, now at Yale, was considered by the artist the best portrayal of him in his heroic military character. He also executed in 1794 portraits of Gen. and Mrs. Washington, in the National museum, Washington, D. C. During this time he was also collecting a valuable series of portraits for his historical paintings.