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John Trumbull

painter of scenes from the Revolutionary War period

John Trumbull

John Trumbull was born in Lebanon, Connecticut, on June 6, 1756, the son of Jonathan Trumbull, Governor of Connecticut. He graduated from Harvard College in 1773, and served as second aide-de-camp to General George Washington during the early years of the Revolutionary War.

Trumbull went to London in 1780, where he intended to study under American painter Benjamin West. Unfortunately for him, his arrival in London coincided with the arrest and execution of Major John André, a British soldier in America who had been convicted of spying against the United States while serving as a deputy adjutant general. Because Trumbull had been an officer of similar rank in the Continental Army, British authorities decided to retaliate by having Trumbull arrested; he was held for a total of seven months before finally being released and sent back to America.

Returning to London in 1784, Trumbull was able to resume his study under West, who convinced him to paint scenes from the Revolutionary War. Trumbull's "Battle of Bunker Hill" and "Death of Montgomery" are two of the most well-known paintings from this period; both of them are now owned by the Yale School of Fine Arts. In 1785 Trumbull went to Paris, where he made portrait sketches of French officers for "The Surrender of Cornwallis," and began work on "The Signing of the Declaration of Independence." Both of these paintings, along with "The Surrender of Burgoyne" and "The Resignation of Washington," were bought by the United States government and placed in the Capitol.

Signing of the Declaration of Independence
Trumbull's 'Signing of the Declaration of Independence'

Trumbull also painted portraits and miniature portraits of notable figures of his day, including George Washington, George Clinton, John Adams, Jonathan Trumbull, Rufus King, and Alexander Hamilton. Trumbull himself was painted by other contemporary artists, including Gilbert Stuart.

Failing eyesight made Trumbull's later years difficult. He died in New York on November 10, 1843.

SEE ALSO
John André
George Washington
George Clinton
John Adams
Rufus King
Alexander Hamilton
Gilbert Stuart

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The Robinson Library >> Fine Arts >> Painting >> United States

This page was last updated on 06/05/2017.