John Trumbull USA
6-6-1756 Lebanon, USA – 11-10-1843 New York, USABack to Artist IndexView Artists Paintings
The young John Trumbull entered the 1771 junior class at Harvard College at age fifteen and graduated in 1773. Due to a childhood accident, Trumbull lost use of one eye, which may have influenced his detailed painting style.
As a soldier in the American Revolutionary War, John Trumbull rendered a particular service at Boston by sketching plans of the British works. He witnessed the Battle of Bunker Hill. He was appointed second personal aide to General George Washington, and in June 1776, deputy adjutant-general to General Horatio Gates.
In 1780 he traveled to London, where he studied under Benjamin West. At West's suggestion, John Trumbull painted small pictures of the War of Independence and miniature portraits. He painted about 250 in his lifetime.
On September 23, 1780, British agent Major John André was captured by Continental troops in North America; he was hanged as a spy. After news reached Great Britain, outrage flared and Trumbull was arrested, as having been an officer in the Continental Army of similar rank to André. He was imprisoned for seven months in London.
After being released, Trumbull returned to the United States. In 1784, following the British recognition of the United States' independence, he returned to London for painting study under West. While working in his studio, Trumbull painted Battle of Bunker Hill and Death of General Montgomery at Quebec.
In 1785 Trumbull went to Paris, where he made portrait sketches of French officers for the Surrender of Lord Cornwallis. With the assistance of Thomas Jefferson, serving there as the US minister, Trumbull began Declaration of Independence. John Trumbull's painting became widely known due to a later engraving of it by Asher Brown Durand, which was reproduced.
This Independence painting was purchased by the United States Congress, along with his Surrender of General Burgoyne, Surrender of Lord Cornwallis, and Washington Resigning his Commission, all related to the Revolution. All now hang in rotunda of the United States Capitol. Congress reportedly authorized only funds sufficient to purchase these four paintings.
In 1831 John Trumbull sold a series of 28 paintings and 60 miniature portraits to Yale University for an annuity of $1,000. This is by far the largest single collection of his works. The collection was originally housed in a neoclassical art gallery designed by Trumbull on Yale's Old Campus, along with portraits by other artists.
John Trumbull was appointed president of the American Academy of the Fine Arts in New York City, serving for twenty years, from 1816 to 1836. Emphasizing classical traditions, Trumbull did not get along with the students. At the same time, his painting skills declined. In 1825 many of the students withdrew, founding the National Academy of Design.
Art Movement: Neoclassicism Art
Influences: Benjamin West
Traveled: England, France, Germany