Biography of John S. Copley
Famous American Biographies

JOHN SINGLETON COPLEY, one of the two great painters who laid the foundation of true American art, was born. in Boston in 1737, one year earlier than his great contemporary, Benjamin West. His education was limited to the common schools of that time, and his training in art he obtamed by his own observation and experiments solely. When he was about seventeen years old he had mapped out his future, however, by choosing painting as his profession. If he ever studied under any teacher in his early efforts, we have no authentic account of it, and tradition credits the young artist's wonderful success entirely to his own talent and untiring effort. It is almost incredible that at the age of twenty three years his income from his works aggregated fifteen hundred dollars per annum, a very great sum in those days. In 1774 he went to Europe in search of material for study, which was so rare in his native land. After some time spent in Italy he finally took up his permanent residence in England. In 1783 he was made a member of the Royal Academy, and later his son had the high honor of becoming lord chancellor of England and Lord Lyndhurst.

Many specimens of Copley's work are to be found in the Memorial Hall at Harvard and in the Boston Museum, as well as a few of the works upon which he modeled his style. Copley was essentially a portrait painter, though his historical paintings attained great celebrity, his masterpiece being his Death of Major Pierson," though that distinction has by some been given to his "Death of Chatham." It is said that he never saw a good picture until he was thirty five years old, yet his portraits prior to that period are regarded as rare specimens. He died in 1815.

A Biographical Record
Of Schuyler County, New York
The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company
New York and Chicago 1903.

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