1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Trumbull, John (artist)

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TRUMBULL, JOHN (1756-1843), American artist, was born at Lebanon, Connecticut, on the 6th of June 1756, the son of Jonathan Trumbull (1710-1785), governor of Connecticut. He graduated at Harvard in 1773, served in the War of Independence, rendering a particular service at Boston by sketching plans of the British works, and was appointed second aide-de-camp to General Washington and in June 1776 deputy adjutant-general to General Gates, but resigned from the army in 1777. In 1780 he went to London to study under Benjamin West, but his work had hardly begun when the news of the arrest and execution of Major André, who was deputy adjutant-general in the English army, suggested the arrest of Trumbull as having been an officer of similar rank in the Continental army; he was imprisoned for seven months. 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 School of Fine Arts. 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, “The Signing of the Declaration of Independence,” well-known from the engraving by Asher B. Durand. These paintings, with “The Surrender of Burgoyne,” and “The Resignation of Washington,” were bought by the United States government and placed in the Capitol at Washington. Trumbull's “Sortie from Gibraltar” (1787), owned by the Boston Athenaeum, is now in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, and a series of historical paintings, the “Trumbull Gallery,” by far the largest single collection of his works (more than 50 pictures), has been in the possession of Yale College since 1831, when Trumbull received from the college an annuity of $1000. His portraits include full lengths of General Washington (1790) and George Clinton (1791), in the city-hall of New York — where there are also full lengths of Hamilton and of Jay; and portraits of John Adams (1797), Jonathan Trumbull, and Rufus King (1800); of Timothy Dwight and Stephen Van Rensselaer, both at Yale; of Alexander Hamilton (in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, 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 at Washington. Trumbull's own portrait was painted by 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. He was president of the American Academy of Fine Arts in 1816-1825. He died in New York on the 10th of November 1843.

See his Autobiography (New York, 1841); J. F. Weir, John Trumbull, A brief Sketch of His Life, to which is added a Catalogue of his Works (New York, 1901); and John Durand, “John Trumbull,” American Art Review, vol. ii. pt. 2, pp. 181-191 (Boston, 1881).