John Trumbull

John Trumbull

Infobox Artist
bgcolour = #EEDD82
name = John Trumbull

imagesize =
caption =
birthname =
birthdate = June 6, 1756
location = Lebanon, Connecticut
deathdate = November 10, 1843
deathplace = New York, New York
nationality = American
field = Painting
training = with Benjamin West
movement =
works = "Declaration of Independence" (1817-1819)"
patrons =
awards =

John Trumbull (June 6, 1756 – November 10, 1843) was an American artist during the period of the American Revolutionary War famous for his historical paintings including his "Declaration of Independence", which appears on the reverse of the $2 dollar bill.

Early years

Trumbull was born in Lebanon, Connecticut, to Jonathan Trumbull, who was Governor of Connecticut from 1769 to 1784. He entered the 1771 junior class at Harvard University at age fifteen and graduated in 1773. Due to a childhood accident, Trumbull lost use of one eye, which may have influenced his detailed painting style. citation |title=Gentleman John Trumbull |journal=Time Magazine |date=1956-10-29 |url=,9171,867213,00.html |accessdate=2008-02-17 ]

As a soldier in the American Revolutionary War, Trumbull rendered a particular service at Boston by sketching plans of the British works, and witnessed the famous Battle of Bunker Hill. He was appointed second personal aide to General George Washington, and in June 1776 deputy adjutant-general to General Horatio Gates, but resigned from the army in 1777.

In 1780 he traveled to London where he studied under Benjamin West, who suggested to him that he paint small pictures of the War of Independence and miniature portraits, of which he produced about 250 in his lifetime.

On September 23, 1780 and October 2, 1780, British agent Major John André was, respectively, captured and hanged as a spy in America. News reached Europe, and as an officer of similar rank as André in the Continental Army, Trumbull was imprisoned for seven months in London's Tothill Fields Bridewell.

In 1784 he was again in London working under West, in whose studio he painted his "Battle of Bunker Hill" and "Death of Montgomery", both of which are now in the Yale University Art Gallery.

In 1785 Trumbull went to Paris, where he made portrait sketches of French officers for "The Surrender of Cornwallis", and began, with the assistance of Jefferson, "Declaration of Independence", well-known from the engraving by Asher Brown Durand. This latter painting was purchased by the United States Congress along with his "Surrender of General Burgoyne", "Surrender at Yorktown", and "Washington Resigning his Commission", and these paintings now hang in the United States Capitol. Trumbull's "The Sortie Made by the Garrison of Gibraltar, 1789", owned by the Boston Athenaeum, is now in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.

Middle years

Trumbull sold a series of 28 paintings and 60 miniature portraits to Yale University in 1831 for an annuity of US$1000. This is by far the largest single collection of his works. The collection was originally housed in a neoclassical art gallery designed by Trumbull on Yale's Old Campus, along with portraits by other artists. [ [ Yale Art Gallery: Trumbull] ]

His portraits include full lengths of General Washington (1790) and George Clinton (1791), in New York City Hall, where there are also full lengths of Alexander Hamilton (1805, and the source of the face on the U.S. $10 bill [cite news | last=Dunlap | first=David W. | title=In New York, Taking Years Off the Old, Famous Faces Adorning City Hall | publisher=The New York Times | date=2006-12-06 | accessdate=2007-01-07 | url= ] ) and John Jay, and portraits of John Adams (1797), Jonathan Trumbull, and Rufus King (1800),; of Timothy Dwight and Stephen Van Rensselaer, (both at Yale), Alexander Hamilton (in the Metropolitan Museum of Art and in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, both taken from Ceracchi's bust), a portrait of himself painted in 1833, a full length of Washington, at Charleston, South Carolina,a full length of Washington in military costume (1792), (now at Yale), and portraits of President and Mrs. Washington (1794), in the National Museum of American History.Fact|date=February 2007

Trumbull's own portrait was painted by Gilbert Stuart and by many others.

In 1794 Trumbull acted as secretary to John Jay in London during the negotiation of the treaty with Great Britain, and in 1796 he was appointed by the commissioners sent by the two countries the fifth commissioner to carry out the seventh article of the treaty.

Later years

Trumbull was appointed president of the American Academy of Fine Arts, a position he held for nine years, from 1816 to 1825, though he did not get along with the students, and his skills declined. Eventually by 1825, his lack of support for the students led to the down fall of the Academy with the students rebelling and founding the National Academy of Design. [citebook |title=A History of the Rise and Progress of the Arts of Design in the United States (Vol 3) |last=Dunlap |first=William |year=1918 |pages=52-57 |publisher =C. E. Goodspeed & Co. |url=|accessdate=2008-02-17] He published an autobiography in 1841.

He died in New York City at the age of 88. He was originally interred (along with his wife) beneath the Art Gallery at Yale University that he had designed. In 1867, his collection, and the remains, were moved to the newly built Street Hall. [ [ Trumbull Gallery at Yale] ] The Trumbull Gallery was later razed.

The John Trumbull Birthplace, in Lebanon, Connecticut, was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1965.

Allegedly because Congress only voted enough money for four paintings for the Capital Rotunda only four of Trumbull's paintings on the Revolution are hung there: "Declaration of Independence", "Surrender of General Burgoyne", "Surrender of Lord Cornwallis", and "General George Washington Resigning his Commission". Not hung were "Death of General Warren at Bunker Hill"; "Death of General Montgomery at Quebec"; "Capture of Hessians at Battle of Trenton"; "Death of General Mercer at Battle of Princeton".


* "The Death of General Warren at the Battle of Bunker Hill"
* "The Death of General Montgomery in the Attack on Quebec"
* "The Death of Aemilius Paullus at the Battle of Cannae"
* "The Sortie Made by the Garrison of Gibraltar, 1789"
* "Declaration of Independence"
* " [ Capture of the Hessians at the Battle of Trenton] " {reference only}
* "Death of General Mercer at the Battle of Princeton" {See Below}
* "The Surrender of General Burgoyne at Saratoga"
* "The Surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown"
* "Washington Resigning his Commission"
* Portraits of George Washington and John Adams
* Self-portrait
* Portrait of Josiah Bartlett

Gallery of Trumbull Paintings

Historic Events




* Helen A. Cooper, "John Trumbull: The Hand and Spirit of a Painter" (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1982).
* Irma B. Jaffe, "John Trumbull: Patriot-Artist of the American Revolution" (Boston: New York Graphic Society, 1975).

External links

* [ The Winterthur Library] Overview of an archival collection on John Trumbull.

ee also

* Trumbull, Connecticut

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