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John Trumbull – Virtual Tour

Self Portrait by John Trumbull

John Trumbull – Virtual Tour

John Trumbull (1756–1843) was born in Connecticut, the son of the governor. After graduating from Harvard University, he served in the Continental Army under General Washington.

He then studied painting with Benjamin West in London and focused on history painting. Trumbull painted many scenes from 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 actual likeness of his subjects into his depiction of historical paintings.

A Virtual Tour of John Trumbull

Highlights Tour 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 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 commanded 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.

The Death of General Montgomery in the Attack on Quebec, December 31, 1775

“The Death of General Montgomery in the Attack on Quebec, December 31, 1775” by John Trumbull depicts the American General’s tragic death during the Invasion of Quebec, a major military operation by the Continental Army in the American Revolutionary War.

General Richard Montgomery is shown in full military uniform, illuminated in the middle of the painting, fatally wounded by grapeshot and supported by Matthias Ogden.

In front of them are two of Montgomery’s aides-de-camp, both captains dead and lying in the snow, near a broken cannon. Behind Montgomery and are three Lieutenants and to the left are is Oneida chief Joseph Louis Cook, shown with his raised tomahawk.

Three Majors are in the left foreground showing their in shock at Montgomery’s death. Although all the composition figures represent actual historical figures, the theatrical narrative is contrived to depict a historical event.  

Ogden, who is shown holding General Montgomery, was with Benedict Arnold attacking a different part of the city during the battle, and Aaron Burr should have been depicted instead.

Surrender of General Burgoyne

“Surrender of General Burgoyne” by John Trumbull depicts the British surrender at Saratoga, New York, in 1777, after the Second Battle of Saratoga.

The American victory was a turning-point and an enormous morale boost. It also convinced France to enter the war in alliance with the United States, openly providing money, soldiers, and munitions and fighting a naval war worldwide against Britain.

The depiction includes many leaders of the American Continental Army and militia forces that took part in the battle. The central figure represents the American General Horatio Gates.

Burgoyne is shown giving his sword to Gates, who immediately returned it as a sign of respect and invited him into his tent.

All of the figures in the scene are portraits of specific officers. Trumbull planned this outdoor scene to complement his painting Declaration of Independence.

The American officers are shown gathered at the sides to witness the event. The officers wear their dress uniforms, their weapons are sheathed or slung, and cannons stand silent.

John Trumbull – Self-Portrait

Trumbull was born in Connecticut in 1756. His father served as Governor of Connecticut, and both sides of his family were descended from early Puritan settlers.

He had two older brothers, Joseph Trumbull, the first commissary general of the Continental Army in the Revolutionary War, and Jonathan Trumbull Jr., who would become the second Speaker of the House of the United States.

Due to a childhood accident, Trumbull lost the use of one eye. This may have influenced his detailed painting style.

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

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 next track’s cabinet meeting, “Cabinet Battle #1”.  (Hear Lyrics below)

The title and first verse refer to the artist John Trumbull, famous for his Revolutionary War paintings, including 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.

 John Trumbull

  • Name:         John Trumbull
  • Born:           1756 – Lebanon, Colony of Connecticut, British America
  • Died:           1843 (aged 87) – New York, New York, U.S.
  • Nationality:  American

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

American Artists You Should Know

No John Trumbull – Hamilton Animatic

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.”

~~~

~~~

“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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