Lectures

John Singleton Copley's Declaration of Interdependence

Detail from John Singleton Copley self-portrait, 1780-1784. Courtesy of National Portrait Gallery, Washington, DCDetail from John Singleton Copley self-portrait, 1780-1784. Courtesy of National Portrait Gallery, Washington, DC

In this lecture, Jane Kamensky, Professor of History at Harvard and Pforzheimer Foundation Director of Radcliffe’s Schlesinger Library, looks at the era of the American Revolution through the eyes of the British-American painter John Singleton Copley.

Revealed in extensive private writings as well as in vivid paintings ranging from the intimate to the gigantic, Copley’s insight into his times was both penetrating and surprising. When the political imaginations of many of his Boston sitters—including Samuel Adams, John Hancock, and Paul Revere—demanded heedless certainty, Copley answered with indirection and ambivalence. Copley’s American Revolution was Britain’s American War: a war defined by chance more than choice, by kin more than ideology, and by loss more than triumph. Recovering Copley’s halting, sidelong gaze at the twilight of Britain’s first empire, Kamensky casts the art of early America, and the founding of the United States itself in a fresh, unsparing light.

Free and open to the public.

 

Jane Kamensky. Photo by Nina SubinJane Kamensky. Photo by Nina Subin