John Singleton Copley and The Boston Tea Party: An American Painter’s Perspective on the Unfolding Revolution

          This exhibit explores John Singleton Copley’s sense of national allegiance in the context of the Destruction of the Tea in Boston Harbor, also known as the Boston Tea Party. This inquiry is not only central to an understanding of Copley and his career but is also crucial to the study of early American life, culture, association, politics, and nationalism. 

          For the modern student, it is common to picture a time in colonial America, and especially in Revolutionary Boston, during which everyone was a patriot and a believer in the cause of liberty. During this period of conflict between America and Britain, both patriots and loyalists were widely known but colonists were most often politically neutral. To see a graph which maps the usage of the words "loyalist","tory","neutral", and "patriot" in printed text from 1765-1774, click here.

          Studying Copley in his first home provides a glimpse of what the Revolutionary period was like for a working artisan. Copley, like many American colonists, believed Britian was “home” and may have seen a series of earlier events, not Paul Revere’s ride or the battles at Lexington and Concord, as the true start of an American War. A study of how his politics and relationships evolved over this time period can help tell this story and may validate the notion that the unfolding American Revolution was, in fact, revolutionary.

To read my paper, John Singleton Copley and The Boston Tea Party: An American Painter’s Perspective on the Unfolding Revolution, in its entirety, click here.
To begin browsing the exhibit, click here.

Credits

Zoe J. Waldman