American Art Project
25 April 2014
Declaration of Independence, John Trumbull
Artist John Trumbull (1756-1843) of Lebanon, Connecticut painted the Declaration of Independence, which was hung in 1826. The painting is of a moment on June 28, 1776 when the first draft of the Declaration was presented to the Second Continental Congress, less than a week before the document was officially adopted (Architect of the Capitol website). The elegance of the room, the importance of the event, and the displayed captured British flags seemingly portray a moment of triumphant victory and success. I believe Trumbull was successful in portraying this in his effort to capture a legendary moment in American history. Part of Trumbull’s success possibly stems from the fact that he did not attempt to recreate accuracy of the scene painted. He instead thrived to attain preservation of the images of the Nation’s founders. There are men in the painting who were not present in the actual event, but were signers of the document. For this reason, I believe the message of the painting is the importance of the event to American history. Adopting the Declaration of Independence as an official document was a major step towards American freedom. Another clue is that the painting is often mistaken for the actual signing of the Declaration, which didn’t take place until over a month later. The artist’s intentions shown in the painting seems to affect the interpretation gained today, which shows that the artist was able to clearly depict the painting’s victory and triumph.
Embarkation of the Pilgrims, Robert Weir
The painting, Embarkation of the Pilgrims (1843) is considered to be Robert Weir’s (1803-1889) most famous work. It depicts the Pilgrims on the deck of the ship Speedwell on July 22, 1620 before they departed from Delfs Haven, Holland for North America, where they sought religious freedom (Architect of the Capitol website). This journey must have been one of the many that populated the new land in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The message in the painting portrays fear, hope, and new beginnings. In the painting, the people are in prayer and looking upward. This makes me believe that they were entrusting God with whatever was next for them, or wherever their path was taking them. The article paired with the painting points out the city on the right side that the Pilgrims are leaving. This city is the Pilgrims’ home; it was all they knew. The fact that is included in the picture could show that the Pilgrims feared the change, or represent the significance of the change. The fear of such a big move could explain the armor that was included in the painting. The Pilgrims had a need for protection from the unknown in the New World they were journeying to. The rainbow in the picture depicts their faith in God and His promise. They were leaving everything behind in search of religious freedom. Though they were in never ending prayer with a strong need of protection, their faith needed to be strong in order to actually go through with the journey. Landing of Columbus, John Vanderlyn
The Landing of Columbus was painted by John Vanderlyn (1775-1852). The painting shows Christopher Columbus and members of his crew at the first landfall of their expedition to find a westward route from Europe to China, Japan, and other uncharted countries. The landing on the beach shown, in the West Indies, marks the beginning of the adventure that Columbus would be known of for the rest of all time. He is standing with his hat at his feet, sword towards the ground, flag in his hand and head held high as if he is declaring the land as Spain territory with much optimism about the future. The hat on the ground and flag mostly point towards claiming the land with the idea that wherever you lay your hat is home. His crew members do not seem to share the same optimism as Columbus, and appear sick and...
References: Niehaus, C. (1886). James A. Garfield. Retrieved 25 Apr 14, from http://www.aoc.gov/capitol-hill/national-statuary-hall-collection/james-garfield.
Niehaus, C. (1887). William Allen. Retrieved 25 Apr 14, from http://www.aoc.gov/capitol-hill/national-statuary-hall-collection/william-allen.
Trumbull, J. (1818). Declaration of Independence. Retrieved 24 Apr 14, from http://www.aoc.gov/capitol-hill/historic-rotunda-paintings/declaration-independence.
Trumbull, J. (1821). Surrender of General Burgoyne. Retrieved 25 Apr 14, from http://www.aoc.gov/capitol-hill/historic-rotunda-paintings/surrender-general-burgoyne.
Vanderlyn, J. (1846). Landing of Columbus. Retrieved 24 Apr 14, from http://www.aoc.gov/capitol-hill/historic-rotunda-paintings/landing-columbus.
Weir, R. (1843). Embarkation of the Pilgrims. Retrieved 24 Apr 14, from http://www.aoc.gov/capitol-hill/historic-rotunda-paintings/embarkation-pilgrims.
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