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John Singleton Copley
Photo credit: National Portrait Gallery, London

John Singleton Copley 1783–1784

Gilbert Stuart (1755–1828)

National Portrait Gallery, London

(b Boston, 3 July 1738; d London, 9 Sept. 1815). The greatest American painter of the 18th century. He was the stepson of the engraver Peter Pelham (c.1695–1751), from whose large collection of engravings he gained a considerable knowledge of European art, but he was virtually self-taught as a painter. While still in his teens he established his own practice in Boston and by his early twenties he was painting portraits that, in their sense of life and character, completely outstripped anything previously produced by Colonial portraitists (Colonel Epes Sargent, c.1760, NG, Washington). Though he became extremely successful, Copley was diffident and self-doubtful by nature and came to see himself as a provincial figure, cut off from the great European tradition of painting.

Text source: The Oxford Dictionary of Art and Artists (Oxford University Press)

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