John Trumbull Biography | Oil Paintings.

6-6-1756 Lebanon, Connecticut USA – 11-10-1843 New York, NY USA

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Trumbull, John

John Trumbull entered Harvard College as a junior at age fifteen in 1771 at and graduated in 1773. He was a soldier in the American Revolutionary War, using his self-taught artistic talent by sketching plans of the British fortifications in Boston, and witnessed the Battle of Bunker Hill. He was appointed second personal aide to General George Washington, and in 1776 at the age of twenty, appointed deputy adjutant-general to General Horatio Gates, but he resigned from the army the following year over a rank dispute.

In early 1780 he traveled to London and was introduced by Benjamin Franklin to Benjamin West. West felt that John Trumbull was best suited for painting small pictures of the War of Independence and miniature portraits due to a childhood accident were Trumbull lost the use of one eye. A few months later, a British spy, Major John André was captured by Continental troops and was hanged as a spy. After news reached Great Britain, outrage flared and Trumbull who had been an officer in the Continental Army of a similar rank to André was arrested, and imprisoned for seven months.

After being released from prison, Trumbull immediately returned to the United States. When the British recognized the United States' independence in 1784, he felt safe enough to return to London to continue his painting study under West, were Trumbull painted The Death of General Warren at the Battle of Bunkers Hill and the Death Of General Montgomery In The Attack On Quebec.

In 1785 to paint the Surrender of Lord Cornwallis, Trumbull went to Paris to make portrait sketches of French officers who had participated. With the help of Thomas Jefferson, who was there as the US minister, Trumbull began the oil painting The Declaration of Independence. Back in the United States, over the next five years, John Trumbull painted small portraits of the signers that he would later use to piece together for the larger 12-by-18-foot (3.7 by 5.5m) painting. John Trumbull's painting became widely known due to a later engraving of it by Asher Brown Durand, which was widely reproduced. Actually, the painting shows the five-man drafting committee presenting their draft of the declaration of independence to the Second Continental Congress, and not the signing of the document.

The Declaration of Independence painting, along with Surrender of General Burgoyne, Surrender of Lord Cornwallis, and General George Washington Resigning his Commission, was purchased by the United States Congress and now hang in the rotunda of the United States Capitol.

Trumbull had trouble selling his oil paintings and fell on hard times financially, so in 1831 after many years of trying to live from his painting he had finally found a way to sustain himself from his art. Trumbull sold a series of 60 miniature portraits and 28 larger paintings to Yale University for a yearly annuity of $1,000 (equivalent to US$27,000 today).

John Trumbull was appointed the president of the American Academy of the Fine Arts in New York City in 1816, and he served as its president for twenty years until 1836. The American Academy had four major problems that came to a head in 1825. It emphasized classical painting study, Trumbull did not get along with the students, his painting skills declined, and none of the board members were artists. In 1825 many of the students feeling constrained, withdrew, founding the National Academy of Design.

Art Movement: Neoclassicism Art.
Artists Influencing John Trumbull: Benjamin West.
He Traveled To England, France, Germany.
Artist Biography compiled by Albert L. Mansour at The World's Artist, with text adapted from Wikipedia.

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