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Posted: September 4th, 2023

Choose two images by John Trumbull and explain


The question whether the revolution succeeded because of the common people or their (uncommon) leaders is reflected in the revolutionary-era and post-revolutionary art. Respond to the following two questions:

1) Choose two images by John Trumbull and explain whether he wanted to praise common people or their uncommon leaders. (300 words)

2) Choose one revolutionary leader or the founder of the republic (also known as the Founding fathers) and use the Met Museum collection database to find two images of that person from the period between. The images must be created between 1770 and 1860. Explain how they, in your view, convey a specific idea and explain what details support that idea. You can start a response, for example, like this: The statue of [name of the person] suggests that he was meant to be regarded as someone who was deeply religious. (300 words total).

John Trumbull was an American artist during the Revolutionary War era who painted several images of significant events and individuals of the time. Two of his most famous works are “The Declaration of Independence” and “Surrender of General Burgoyne.”
In “The Declaration of Independence,” Trumbull depicts the signing of the Declaration of Independence by the founding fathers, including Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Benjamin Franklin, among others. The image portrays the leaders of the American Revolution, emphasizing their role in the fight for independence. Trumbull wanted to praise the uncommon leaders who played a crucial role in the success of the revolution. The image highlights the leaders’ intelligence, determination, and commitment to the cause of liberty. The painting also conveys the idea that the declaration was a momentous event that would change the course of history.

In contrast, in “Surrender of General Burgoyne,” Trumbull depicts a moment from the Battle of Saratoga, where General John Burgoyne surrendered to General Horatio Gates, a victory that marked a turning point in the Revolutionary War. The painting portrays the common people, the soldiers, and civilians who contributed to the victory. Trumbull wanted to praise the ordinary people who fought for their country’s freedom, portraying them as heroic figures. The painting emphasizes the unity, bravery, and sacrifice of the soldiers and civilians, who were instrumental in the success of the revolution. The image conveys the idea that the revolution’s success was due to the collective effort of the people.

The statue of George Washington, the first president of the United States, suggests that he was meant to be regarded as a leader of great virtue and courage. The statue depicts Washington standing tall, dressed in his military uniform, with his right hand on his sword and his left hand holding a cane. The statue emphasizes Washington’s military leadership and his role as the father of his country. The details that support this idea include the sword, which symbolizes his military achievements, and the cane, which suggests his statesmanship and wise leadership.
In contrast, the portrait of Washington by Gilbert Stuart conveys a different idea. The portrait depicts Washington as a civilian, dressed in a black suit with a white cravat, seated in a chair, and holding a book. The painting emphasizes Washington’s intellectual pursuits, his love of learning, and his commitment to education. The details that support this idea include the book, which suggests his love of reading and his intellectual curiosity. The portrait conveys the idea that Washington was not only a great military leader but also a learned and cultured individual who valued education and knowledge.

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