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John Singleton Copley Research Papers

Art research papers on artists such as John Singleton Copley are custom written at Paper Masters. Copley is an example of an artist that painted American history and is a great topic for a research paper in history or to study his artistic style.

During John Copley’s long lifetime (1738 to 1815), the perception of the artist in America underwent a dramatic change, due in no small part to his own achievements. One of Copley’s most well known paintings is Watson and the Shark. America itself in that time frame progressed from the status of colony to that of independent nation, and began to turn her eyes from the east coast to the interior and even to the western expanses of the continent. In the turbulent days of the latter half of the eighteenth century, art for art’s sake was understandably low on the priority scale of the colonists. They were too busy building cities and other infrastructure, fighting wars, and establishing a political system, to be concerned with the frivolities of art. Many were also conservative in their religious views, and art was seen as potentially sinful. For a number of reasons, only portraiture was especially popular. Because there was as yet no photography, a portrait was a means of giving a representation of oneself to loved ones. In a time of migration and war, this keepsake was a precious reminder. In the intensely materialistic society of the time, a portrait might also show the owner’s wealth and social position. Some portraits actually showed the farm itself and its livestock, satisfying the owner’s pride of possession .

John Singleton Copley

Most of the portrait painters worked anonymously. Many of them, in fact, painted signs and barns as their main livelihood, and only turned to portraits as a sideline; they were artisans at best in the eyes of their clients . There was no academy to provide them with formal training, and their style of painting was by and large naïve and primitive. Traveling about the country in search of work, they did not have the opportunity to study each other’s techniques or to exchange ideas, much less to learn the artistic skills of European painters. Examples of these early works are:

  • The anonymous painting of John Van Cortlandt, about 1731.
  • Edward Hicks carried this flat, literal style well into the nineteenth century, with works such as The Residence of David Twining 1787, painted about 1846.
  • Coply's Watson and the Shark

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