For the rest of the year, we’re highlighting superb works of art that became part of the SLAM collection in 2014. Make sure to read yesterday’s installment on Wendy Red Star’s Four Seasons series of self portraits.
The Boston-born John Singleton Copley (1738-1815) was the most skilled and important portraitist in colonial America, although he achieved even greater fame after leaving the colonies for London.
There he became the preferred portrait artist for military men and nobles, such as the officer in the 52nd Regiment of Foot we see in Henry Barry.
“Copley’s skill in depicting exquisite details of fabrics and props, as well as his ability to convey an accurate likeness of the subject, were praised by his wealthy clients,” wrote Janeen Turk, the Art Museum’s assistant curator for American art, in an acquisition proposal. “Copley left for London in 1774 where he achieved equal success painting portraits of British aristocracy… with his British portraits done in a looser, broader style than his earlier American paintings.”
The portrait joins fine examples of Copley’s work in the collection, including two important works from his earlier American career—the portraits Eunice Dennie Burr and Thaddeus Burr—as well as Henry Addington, First Viscount Sidmouth, which Copley painted about 10 years after Henry Barry.
Part of a transformative bequest by the late C.C. Johnson Spink and Edith “Edie” Spink, the portrait was formally accepted into the Art Museum collection in November.