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COPLEY

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(1738-1815)

T. H. Breen posits that in colonial portraiture the postures and faces of the subjects sometimes were less important, to both painter and sitters, than the clothing, fabrics, and other appurtenances-the consumer goods-with which they were shown. This observation reminds us that Copley lavished equal attention on all parts of his composition, and that his skill at rendering materials played a major role in the way he constructed each painting. As Breen points out, in terms of value the most important British export to America in the eighteenth century was cloth: half of all colonial imports were textiles, and by Copley's era dozens and dozens of fabrics, including every kind and color of satins, velvets, brocades, poplins, cottons, and woolens, had become available. If the portrait was, at least in part, "an object, a thing, an article of commerce, an ornament to be displayed with other possessions" in colonial America, as Breen maintains, then the vast swags of luxuriant fabric that appear in Copley's portraits from the time of his earliest efforts, such as Charles Pelhamand Mary and Elizabeth Royall, become understandable as representations of wealth and social position. Curtains had been used in portraits since the Renaissance, both for decorative purposes and to suggest interior spaces adjoining the sitter's space, and English painters of the generation of Thomas Hudson (1701-1779) employed them regularly; but they became nearly ubiquitous in Copley's portraits during the 1760s, joining an array of other materials. He typically placed a curtain on one side of the background or the other in his pictures of both men and women and often included either a draped table or an upholstered chair - all in addition to the fabrics of the rich, complex costumes in which his sitters were dressed. Here as in other details Copley missed the mark in terms of contemporary British usage, for by the 1760s Reynolds, Gainsborough, Allan Ramsay, and the like had long since given up such extensive display of fabrics. Copley's reliance on fabrics was made possible by the settings he utilized, which most often represented either interiors or ambiguous porchlike areas, while the British painters by this time had moved their sitters largely to the out-of-doors.

Much as Copley attempted to render the "general air of grandeur" that Reynolds recommended, by posing his sitters with great columns and other lavish props, and much as he may have tried to avoid minuteness (which for Reynolds constituted "the most dangerous error"), especially after this quality was criticized in Boy with a Squirrel, in Boston he was unable to paint in a true English style. Yet his work does come close in spirit or manner to the occasional highstyle English painting of the previous generation by a Hudson or a Joseph Highmore, or to a picture of Copley's own time by such London painters as Ramsay and Francis Cotes, or by one of their provincial colleagues, such as Joseph Wright of Derby, Mason Chamberlin the elder, or Tilly Kettle. These analogies have been little explored and warrant a thorough study of the kind that John Kirk has given to American and British furniture and that Morrison Heckscher and Leslie Bowman have applied to the Rococo style. However, enough work has been done to suggest that despite the increasing anglicization of American taste in the pre-Revolutionary years, when consumers, craftsmen, and painters such as Copley were all looking to London for guidance, remarkably enough there emerged in the arts of the colonies what Kirk concludes was "an American aesthetic," an aesthetic that frequently exhibits conservative, elegant, linear characteristics. Copley's American work thus relates to the paintings of Reynolds and Gainsborough in much the same way that American silver and furniture of the period relate to high-style luxury products made in London.

- From Theodore E. Stebbins, Jr., in "John Singleton Copley in America"

 COPLEY_WATSON

Copley, John Singleton Watson and the Shark 1778 Oil on canvas 72 x 90 1/4 in. (192.9 x 229.2 cm) Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 COPLEY_REVERE

Copley, John Singleton Paul Revere c. 1768-70 Oil on canvas 35 x 28 1/2 in. (88.9 x 72.3 cm) Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

 COPLEY_MIFFLIN

Copley, John Singleton Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Mifflin (Sarah Morris) 1773 Oil on ticking 61 x 48 in. (154.9 x 121.9 cm) The Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia

 COPLEY_BOYLSTON

Copley, John Singleton Nicholas Boylston 1767 Oil on canvas 49 1/4 x 39 1/8 in. (125 x 99.5 cm) Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts

copley_Mrs

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Copley

Copley

John Singleton Copley. Mrs. John Winthrop. 1773. Oil on canvas. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, USA

copley_The_Red_Cross_Knight

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Copley

Copley

John Singleton Copley. The Red Cross Knight. 1793. Oil on canvas. The National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, USA.

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Copleya

Copleya

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copley_Portrait_of_Paul_Revere

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Copley

Copley

John Singleton Copley. Portrait of Paul Revere. c. 1768-70. Oil on canvas. 89 x 72 cm. The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA, USA

copley_Portrait_of_Mrs

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Copley

Copley

John Singleton Copley. Portrait of Mrs. Daniel Hubbard. c. 1764. Oil on canvas, 127.6 x 100.9 cm. The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL, USA

copley_Portrait_of_Mrs

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Copley

Copley

John Singleton Copley. Portrait of Mrs. Daniel Rea and Child. 1757.Oil on canvas, 124.5 x 99.1 cm. The Butler Institute of American Art, Youngstown, Ohio, USA.

copley_Portrait_of_Mrs

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Copley

Copley

John Singleton Copley. Portrait of Mrs. James Russell (Katherine Graves). c. 1770. Oil on canvas, 127.5 x 101.7 cm. North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh, NC, USA.

copley_Sir_William_Pepperrell_and_His_Family

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Copley

Copley

John Singleton Copley. Sir William Pepperrell and His Family. 1778. Oil on canvas, 228.6 x 274.3 cm. North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh, NC, USA.

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Copleya

Copleya

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copley_Governor_Thomas_Miffin_and_Mrs

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Copley

Copley

John Singleton Copley. Governor Thomas Miffin and Mrs. Miffin. 1773. The Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, USA

copley_Charles_Pelham

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Copley

Copley

John Singleton Copley. Charles Pelham. 1753-54. Oil on canvas. Private collection.

copley_Mrs

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Copley

Copley

John Singleton Copley. Mrs. Samuel Quincy (Hannah Hill). 1761. Oil on canvas. The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA, USA

copley_Mrs

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Copley

Copley

John Singleton Copley. Mrs. Nathaniel Allen (Sarah Sargent). 1763, oil on canvas, The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Minneapolis, MN, USA.

copley_Mrs

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Copley

Copley

John Singleton Copley. Mrs. Daniel Sargent (Mary Turner). 1763. Oil on canvas. Fine Art Museum of San Francisco, CA, USA.

copley_Young_Girl_with_a_Bird_and_Dog

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Copley

Copley

John Singleton Copley. Young Girl with a Bird and Dog. 1767. Oil on canvas. The Toledo Museum of Art, Ohio, USA.

copley_Theodore_Atkinson

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Copley

Copley

John Singleton Copley. Theodore Atkinson. 1757-58, oil on canvas, Rhode Island School of Design, Museum of Art, Providence, Rhode Island, USA

copley_Epes_Sargent

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Copley

Copley

John Singleton Copley. Epes Sargent. c. 1760. Oil on canvas. The National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, USA

copley_Mary_MacIntosh_Royall_and_Elizabeth_Royall

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Copley

Copley

John Singleton Copley. Mary MacIntosh Royall and Elizabeth Royall. c.1758. Oil on canvas. The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA, USA.

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Copley

Copley

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copley_Mrs

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Copley

Copley

John Singleton Copley. Mrs. Benjamin Pickman (Mary Toppan). 1763. Oil on canvas. Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, CT, USA

copley_Mrs_Ezekiel_Goldthwait_(Elizabeth_Lewis)

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Copley

Copley

John Singleton Copley. Mrs Ezekiel Goldthwait (Elizabeth Lewis). 1771. Oil on canvas. The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA, USA.

copley_Nathaniel_Sparhawk

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Copley

Copley

John Singleton Copley. Nathaniel Sparhawk. 1764. Oil on canvas. The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA, USA.

copley_Jane_Browne

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Copley

Copley

John Singleton Copley. Jane Browne. 1756. Oil on canvas. The National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, USA.

copley_John_Hancock

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Copley

Copley

John Singleton Copley. John Hancock. 1765, oil on canvas, The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA, USA

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Copley

Copley

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copley_Daniel_Crommelin_Verplanck

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Copley

John Singleton Copley. Daniel Crommelin Verplanck. 1771. Oil on canvas.125.7 x 101.6 cm. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, USA

copley_The_Three_Youngest_Daughters_of_King_George_III

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Copley

Copley

John Singleton Copley. The Three Youngest Daughters of King George III. 1785. Oil on canvas. Royal Collections of Her Majesty the Queen of UK

copley_Portrait_of_a_Lady_(Mrs

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Copley

Copley

John Singleton Copley. Portrait of a Lady (Mrs. Seymor Fort). c. 1778. Oil on canvas The Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, CT, USA.

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Copleya

Copleya

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copley_The_Copley_Family

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Copley

Copley

John Singleton Copley. The Copley Family. Detail. 1776/77. Oil on canvas. The National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, USA.

copley_The_Copley_Family

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Copley

Copley

John Singleton Copley. The Copley Family. Detail. 1776/77. Oil on canvas. The National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, USA.

copley_The_Copley_Family

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Copley

Copley

John Singleton Copley. The Copley Family. Detail. 1776/77. Oil on canvas. The National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, USA

copley_Midshipman_Augustus_Brine

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Copley

Copley

John Singleton Copley. Midshipman Augustus Brine. 1782 Oil on canvas 50 x 40 inches (127 x 101.6 cm) The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, USA

copley_The_Death_of_Major_Peirson,_6_January_1781

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Copley

Copley

John Singleton Copley. The Death of Major Peirson, 6 January 1781. Detail. 1783. Oil on canvas, support: 2515 x 3658 mm. Tate Gallery, London, UK.

copley_Boy_with_Squirrel_(Henry_Pelham)

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Copley

Copley

John Singleton Copley. Boy with Squirrel (Henry Pelham). 1765. Oil on canvas. The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA, USA.

copley_The_Death_of_Major_Peirson,_6_January_1781

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Copley

Copley

John Singleton Copley. The Death of Major Peirson, 6 January 1781. 1783. Oil on canvas, support: 2515 x 3658 mm. Tate Gallery, London, UK.

copley_The_Collapse_of_the_Earl_of_Chatham_in_the_House_of_Lords,_7_July_1778

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Copley

Copley

John Singleton Copley. The Collapse of the Earl of Chatham in the House of Lords, 7 July 1778. 1779-80. Oil on canvas support: 2286 x 3073 mm Tate Gallery, London, UK.

copley_Hugh_Montgomerie,_12th_Earl_of_Eglinton

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Copley

Copley

John Singleton Copley. Hugh Montgomerie, 12th Earl of Eglinton. 1780. Oil on canvas. 226 x 149 cm. National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh, UK

copley_Duncan_Stewart_of_Ardsheal

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Copley

Copley

John Singleton Copley. Duncan Stewart of Ardsheal. 1767. Oil on canvas. 128 x 104 cm. National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh, UK

copley_Eleazer_Tyng

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Copley

Copley

John Singleton Copley. Eleazer Tyng. 1772. Oil on canvas. The National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, USA

copley_Mrs_Duncan_Stewart_(Anne_Erving)

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Copley

Copley

John Singleton Copley. Mrs Duncan Stewart (Anne Erving). 1767. Oil on canvas. 127 x 101 cm. National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh, UK

copley_Samuel_Adams

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Copley

Copley

John Singleton Copley. Samuel Adams. 1772. Oil on canvas. 126 x 100 cm. The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA, USA

copley_Mr _and_Mrs

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Copley

Copley

John Singleton Copley. Mr. and Mrs. Ralph Izard (Alice Delancey). 1775. Oil on canvas. 174 x 223 cm. The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA, USA

copley__Mrs

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Copley

Copley

John Singleton Copley. Mrs. Richard Skinner (Dorothy Wendell). 1772. Oil on canvas. 101 x 77 cm. The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA, USA

copley_John_Quincy_Adams

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Copley

Copley

John Singleton Copley. John Quincy Adams. 1795. Oil on canvas. 76 x 63 cm. The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA, USA

copley_Ascension

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Copley

Copley

John Singleton Copley. Ascension. 1775. Oil on canvas. 81 x 73 cm. The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA, USA

copley_George_IV

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Copley

Copley

John Singleton Copley. George IV. 1809. Oil on canvas. 372 x 318 cm. The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA, USA

copley_James_Warren

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Copley

Copley

John Singleton Copley. James Warren. 1763. Oil on canvas. 127 x 101 cm. The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA, USA

copley_Mercy_Otis_Warren_(Mrs

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Copley

Copley

John Singleton Copley. Mercy Otis Warren (Mrs. James Warren). 1763. Oil on canvas. 127 x 101 cm. The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA, USA

copley_Mrs

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Copley

Copley

John Singleton Copley. Mrs. John Amory (Katherine Greene). 1763. Oil on canvas. 127 x 102 cm. The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA, USA

copley_Mrs

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Copley

Copley

John Singleton Copley. Mrs. Metcalf Bowler. c. 1763. Oil on canvas. The National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, USA

copley_John_Amory

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Copley

Copley

John Singleton Copley. John Amory. 1768. 1768. Oil on canvas. 127 x 102 cm. The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA, USA.

copley_Isaac_Royall

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Copley

Copley

John Singleton Copley. Isaac Royall. 1769. Oil on canvas. 127 x 101 cm. The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA, USA.

copley_Ezekiel_Goldthwait

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Copley

Copley

John Singleton Copley. Ezekiel Goldthwait. 1771. Oil on canvas. 127 x 101 cm. The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA, USA

copley_Joseph_Mann

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Copley

Copley

John Singleton Copley. Joseph Mann. 1754. Oil on canvas. 91 x 72 cm. The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA, USA.

copley_Mrs

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Copley

Copley

John Singleton Copley. Mrs. Joseph Mann (Bethia Torrey). 1753. Oil on canvas. 91 x 72 cm. The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA, USA.

copley_Samuel_Quincy

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Copley

Copley

John Singleton Copley. Samuel Quincy. 1767. Oil on canvas. 90 x 148 cm. The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA, USA

copley_Mrs

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Copley

Copley

John Singleton Copley. Mrs. John Hancock (Dorothy Quincy). 1772. Oil on canvas. 127 x 100 cm. The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA, USA.

copley_Rebecca_Boylston

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Copley

Copley

John Singleton Copley. Rebecca Boylston. 1767. Oil on canvas. 128 x 102 cm. The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA, USA

copley_Watson_and_the_Shark

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Copley

Copley

John Singleton Copley. Watson and the Shark. 1778. Oil on canvas. The National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, USA

copley_Baron_Graham

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Copley

Copley

John Singleton Copley. Baron Graham. 1804. Oil on canvas. The National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, USA.