John Singleton, painter, born in Boston, Massachusetts., 3 July,
1737; died in London, 9 September, 1815. I le is commonly called self-taught,
but he probably received some instruction from his stepfather, Peter Pelham, who
died in 1751. Boston was then a small provincial town where art was almost
unknown and good instruction unattainable. Young Copley began at an early age to
see visions of lovely forms and faces, which nature impelled him to reproduce
with such materials as he could procure or make for himself. In the uncongenial
atmosphere of colonial Boston such talent was phenomenal, and, as he was really
successful in producing likenesses, he soon gained local celebrity by executing
portraits of many members of the leading families, as is still attested by
almost every notable collection in the city.
1760 he sent to Benjamin West, in England, without name or address, a portrait,
which at once gave him a place among artists of recognized merit. This painting
is known as "The Boy and the Flying Squirrel," and represents
the artist's half-brother, Henry Pelham. Through West's influence the picture
was exhibited at Somerset house. Its American origin was at once suspected,
because the wood of the stretching-frame was made of American pine but the
authorship was not decided until, after long delay, the letter of transmittal
reached England. In 1767, on West's nomination, Copley was elected a
fellow of the Society of artists of Great Britain. In 1769 he married
Susannah, daughter of Richard Clarke, a lineal descendant of Mary Chillton, who
came from England in the "Mayflower." The first years oftheir married life were passed in Boston, in a solitary house on Beacon
Hill, where four children were born, including the son that becamelord chancellor of England. During these years correspondence had
continued with English admirers, and in 1774 Copley sailed for England, and
after a short sojourn there visited Italy, spending a year in studying the old
masters, and then settled in London. Here he was joined by his wife, and he
thenceforward made it his home. He rose with almost unprecedented rapidity to
the height of professional fame. He was patronized by the royal family and the
nobility, and met with uninterrupted success.
1777 he was elected an associate member, and in 1779 a full member, of the Royal
academy. When he sent copies of the engraving of his picture, " The
Deathof Chatham," to
Washington and John Adams, the former wrote, " It is rendered more
estimable in my eye when I remember that America gave birth to the celebrated
artist who produced it." Adams said, "I shall preserve my copy
both as a token of your friendship and as an indubitable proof of American
genius." Although he was essentially a portrait-painter, Copley
composed some large historical works, of which the ' Death of Chatham, the "Death
of Major Pierson," and the " Siege of Gibraltar" are
in the National gallery, London. The first two of these and his "Charles
I. Demandingin the House of
Commons the Five Impeached Members" were engraved and became very
popular. Among his other historical works are "Offer of the Crown
to Lady Jane Gray " (1808); " King Charles signing Strafford's
Death-Warrant" ; "Assassination of Buckingham "; "
Battle of the Boyne"; "King Charles addressing the Citizens of
London"; "The Five Impeached :Members brought back in Triumph";
and " The King's Escape from Hampton Court."
his best portrait compositions are "The Daughters of George III." (Buckingham
Palace); "The Family Picture" (Charles Amory, Boston): "
The Red Cross Knight" (1788, S. G. Dexter, Boston); " Mrs.
Derby as St. Cecilia" (W. Appleton, Boston); and "Mrs. died D.
Rogers" (1789, H. born Rogers, Boston). Most of Copley's best works
were collected by Ills son, Lord Chancellor Lyndhurst, and were dispersed at his
sale in 1864. See A, T. Perkins's "Life of J. S. Copley"
(1873); "Memorial History of Boston" IV. (1881); and Mrs.
Martha born Amory's "Life of J. S. Copley" (1882).
son, John Singleton, Jr., afterward Baron Lyndhurst, born in Boston, 21 May,
1772; died at Tunbridge Wells, England, 11 October, 1863. His father attempted
to educate him as an artist ; but he had no taste for that profession, and is
credited with having declared in a fit of childish impatience that coming
generations should speak of "Copley the father of the lord chancellor,
not of Copley the son of the painter." He was graduated with high honor
at Cambridge in 1795, and shortly afterward visited the United States with a
view to regain his father's property in Boston, which had been sold through a
mistake. This he failed to accomplish, but spent some time in this country,
visiting Washington at Mount Vernon, and traveling extensively through the
northern and middle Atlantic states. Of his experiences he made copious notes
and wrote descriptive letters in Latin to the vice-chancellor of Cambridge
university. Returning to England in 1798, he was called to the bar in 1804, and
entered parliament in 1818. In 1827 he became chancellor, and was raised to the
peerage as Baron Lyndhurst of Lyndhurst, 27 April the same year. He was twice
married, but, as he had no male issue, the title lapsed at his death. See Lord
John Campbell's "Lives of the Lord Chancellors" (7 vols.,
London, 1846-'7) ; "Select Biographical Sketches," by William
Heath Bennet ; "Life of John Singleton Copley" (supra); and "Life
of Lord Lyndhurst," by Sir Theodore Martin (London, 1883).
John Singleton Copley @
... Catharton: Artists: C: Copley, John Singleton. John Singleton Copley. 1738 -
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Copley, John Singleton
... in. x 40 in. In 1771 John Singleton Copley left his native Boston for a
stay in New York where he undertook numerous portrait commissions. One of his
... click on image to see an enlarged version -. John Singleton
Copley (1738-1815) Lydia Lynde, ca. 1762-64. ...
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