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TRUMBULL, John [1756-1843] -- American historical painter

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He was born in Lebanon, Conn., June 6, 1756; son of Gov. Jonathan Trumbull ¤ and Faith Robinson. He attended Nathan Tisdale's school at Lebanon, and was graduated from Harvard college in 1773, devoting his leisure to painting, in which art he attracted much attention. He taught Tisdale's school, 1773-74, and on the outbreak of the Revolutionary war in 1775, went to Boston as adjutant of the 1st Connecticut regiment with Col. Joseph Spencer.

When General Washington assumed command of the army before Boston, Trumbull, by creeping through the tall grass approached the enemy's works on Boston neck, and drew a plan of the fortification that so pleased Washington that he appointed him his second aide-de-camp. He was appointed adjutant on the staff of General Gates, in June, 1776, with the rank of colonel, and took part in the advance toward Crown Point, and in the subsequent retreat to Ticonderoga. In November. 1776, he joined Washington in New Jersey, and in 1777 resigned from the army on account of a misunderstanding regarding his commission.

He resumed the study of art in Lebanon, and subsequently in Boston, and in 1780 went to London, where he became a pupil of Benjamin West. He was arrested and imprisoned in 1780, when the British government learned of the execution of Maj. André, and on his release in 1781, set sail for America, arriving at Boston in January, 1782. He returned to London in 1783, and continued his studies under Benjamin West, and at the Royal Academy.

He conceived the idea of painting historical pictures of scenes of the American Revolution, and went to Paris, where he painted The Declaration of Independence and the Sortie from Gibraltar. He was private secretary to John Jay, 1794-96; was appointed commissioner to carry out the treaty negotiated by Jay, between the United States and Great Britain in 1796; was married in 1800, and in 1804 established himself in New York city as a portrait painter.

Among his other historical paintings are: The Battle of Bunker Hill; Battle of Quebec; Surrender of Lord Cornwallis; Surrender of General Burgoyne; Washington Resigning his Commission to Congress, and Peter the Great at Narva.

His portraits include, besides thirty-four of General Washington; ¤ Generals Putnam, Knox, Schuyler, Gates, Stark, Greene, Lafayette, Clinton, Montgomery, Lee, Moultrie, Pinckney and Arnold.

He also produced portraits of John ¤ and Samuel Adams; Clymer; Franklin; Patrick Henry; Roger Sherman; ¤ John Jay; Alexander Hamilton; Timothy Dwight; ¤ Stephen Van Rensselaer; Jonathan Trumbull; ¤ Rufus King, Christopher Gore, and a portrait of himself.

His religious paintings include: Our Saviour with Little Children, and The Woman Accused of Adultery.

In 1831, being reduced to poverty, he arranged with Yale college to bestow upon the college his unsold paintings for an annuity of $1,000 for the rest of his life. After his death, the proceeds of the exhibition of these paintings were used for the education of poor scholars at Yale.

He died in New York city, Nov. 10, 1843. BDNA  -30-
 

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Associated

  • Father: ¤TRUMBULL, Jonathan, Governor [1710-1785] American statesman

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image related to subject
John Trumbull, Self Portrait, 1802

image related to subject
US $2 bill reverse: Trumbull painting Signing of the Declaration of Independance

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