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John Trumbull

Self Portrait by John Trumbull

John Trumbull

John Trumbull was an American artist during the period of the American Revolutionary War and was notable for his historical paintings.

His painting “Declaration of Independence” was used on the commemorative bicentennial two-dollar bill.

Trumbull also incorporated the likeness of his portraits into his depiction of the signing of the “Declaration of Independence.” It is on display in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda.

John Trumbull in the Hamilton Musical

“No John Trumbull” is the 2nd song of Act Two in the Off-Broadway production of Hamilton.

The 2014 Workshop recording of Hamilton, “No John Trumbull,” sets up the cabinet meeting of the next track, “Cabinet Battle #1”.  (Hear Lyrics below)

The title and first verse refer to the artist John Trumbull, famous for his Revolutionary War paintings, including portraits of George Washington, John Adams, and several of Alexander Hamilton.

The painting referenced in this song, “Declaration of Independence,” is featured on the US two-dollar bill.

A Virtual Tour of John Trumbull

Highlights of John Trumbull

Alexander Hamilton

“Alexander Hamilton” by John Trumbull is a 1792 full-length portrait, and it is one of the many paintings Trumbull made of Hamilton.

This work is considered one of the best pictures of Hamilton from the Federalist Era. This portrait was painted while Alexander Hamilton was the first Treasury Secretary for the USA.

Hamilton was the driving force behind the economic policies of the new nation of the United States that fostered a stable central government.

Hamilton’s policies divided the United States along factional lines, creating voter-based political parties for the first time.

John Adams

“John Adams” by John Trumbull depicts the American statesman and Founding Father, who served as the second President of the United States (1797–1801) and served two terms as the first Vice President (1789–97).

When Adams was vice president, he had portraits commissioned by the artist John Trumbull, who based this painting on one of those original portraits.

John Adams established his prominence early in the American Revolution. He was a delegate from Massachusetts to the Continental Congress, where he played a leading role in persuading Congress to declare independence.

The Capture of the Hessians at Trenton, December 26, 1776

“The Capture of the Hessians at Trenton, December 26, 1776” by John Trumbull depicts the capture of the Hessian soldiers at the Battle of Trenton on the morning of December 26, 1776, during the American Revolutionary War.

At the center is General George Washington aiding the mortally wounded Hessian Colonel. Trumbull’s intended was to show the compassion of General George Washington in this painting.

The Battle of Trenton was a pivotal battle during the American Revolutionary War. It followed Washington’s crossing of the Delaware River north of Trenton the previous night.

The Death of General Warren at the Battle of Bunker’s Hill, June 17, 1775

“The Death of General Warren at the Battle of Bunker’s Hill, June 17, 1775” by John Trumbull is the title of several oil paintings completed by the artist depicting the death of a hero during the American Revolutionary War.

The central focus of the painting is Warren’s body, dressed in white, and a British major, dressed in a scarlet uniform holding a sword in his left hand and over his shoulder.

John Small, the British major, is shown preventing a fellow British soldier from bayoneting Warren. Trumbull wanted to express the poignancy in the conflict of men who had earlier served together.

Declaration of Independence

“Declaration of Independence” by John Trumbull depicts the presentation of the draft of the Declaration of Independence to Congress.

The painting is often incorrectly described as the signing of the Declaration of Independence. The picture actually shows the five-person drafting committee presenting their draft of the Declaration to Congress. 

Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin are the two in front, and John Adams is to the right of Jefferson.

In the painting, Thomas Jefferson standing with the red vest appears to be stepping on John Adams’ foot. Many thought this symbolized their relationship as political enemies.

The Death of General Mercer at the Battle of Princeton, January 3, 1777

“The Death of General Mercer at the Battle of Princeton, January 3, 1777” by John Trumbull depicts the death of the American General Hugh Mercer during the American Revolutionary War.

The composition illustrates several different events during the battle as if they co-occurred at one point in time. The Battle of Princeton was fought near Princeton, New Jersey, which ended in a small victory for the Colonials.

In the center is the American General Hugh Mercer, as he leans on his dying horse beneath him, as he lies wounded.

Mercer was commanding the leading division of the Continental Army when attacked by the British near Princeton, New Jersey. Mercer’s horse was killed, and two grenadiers attacked him. The British were in control of the battle at this moment.

However, events changed when the American General George Washington entered the scene. After Mercer became a casualty, Washington led the charge to overtake the British troops and win the battle.

Surrender of Lord Cornwallis

“Surrender of Lord Cornwallis” by John Trumbull depicts British Lieutenant-General Cornwallis’s surrender at Yorktown, Virginia in 1781. The painting commemorates the end of the Siege of Yorktown and the Revolutionary War’s last major campaign, which led to American independence.

The sky is filled with the dark clouds of smoke, and the broken cannon in the background point to the battle that led to the surrender.

The American Revolutionary War was initiated by the thirteen original colonies in Congress against the Kingdom of Great Britain.  

After six years of battles, Cornwallis’s British force of 7,000 men had retreated to an entrenched position in Yorktown, where they planned for a rescue from the sea, but a French fleet repelled the British vessels.

General Washington then deployed a much larger army, and his artillery bombarded the British positions. After American and French troops overran two British strongholds, Cornwallis surrendered.

In the center of the scene, American General Benjamin Lincoln is mounted on a white horse. He extends his right hand toward the sword carried by the surrendering British officer, General Charles O’Hara.

 John Trumbull

John Trumbull – Self-Portrait

  • Title:                  John Trumbull
  • Artist:                John Trumbull
  • Year:                 1802
  • Medium:           Oil on canvas
  • Dimensions:      Height: 29.7 in (75.5 cm); Width: 24.5 in (62.3 cm)
  • Type:                 Portraits
  • Museum:          Yale University Art Gallery

A Tour of Famous Artists You Should Know

John Trumbull Quotes

“No man ever felt the halter draw, With good opinion of the law.”


“What has poster ‘ty done for us, That we, lest they their rights should lose, Should trust our necks to gripe of noose?”


“But as some muskets so contrive it As oft to miss the mark they drive at, And though well aimed at duck or plover Bear wide, and kick their owners over.”


PAINTER OF THE REVOLUTION: “The Declaration Of Independence” by John Trumbull

No John Trumbull – Hamilton Animatic

No John Trumbull – Hamilton “Animatic”


“When Yankees, skilled in martial rule,
First put the British troops to school;
Instructed them in warlike trade.”

– John Trumbull


Photo Credit: 1) John Trumbull [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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