John Trumbull 1756-1843
John Trumbull Gallery
Trumbull was born in Lebanon, Connecticut, to Jonathan Trumbull, who was Governor of Connecticut from 1769 to 1784. He entered the 1771 junior class at Harvard University at age fifteen and graduated in 1773. Due to a childhood accident, Trumbull lost use of one eye, which may have influenced his detailed painting style.
As a soldier in the American Revolutionary War, Trumbull rendered a particular service at Boston by sketching plans of the British works, and witnessed the famous Battle of Bunker Hill. He was appointed second personal aide to General George Washington, and in June 1776 deputy adjutant-general to General Horatio Gates, but resigned from the army in 1777.
In 1780 he traveled to London where he studied under Benjamin West, who suggested to him that he paint small pictures of the War of Independence and miniature portraits, of which he produced about 250 in his lifetime.
On September 23, 1780 and October 2, 1780, British agent Major John Andr?? was, respectively, captured and hanged as a spy in America. News reached Europe, and as an officer of similar rank as Andr?? in the Continental Army, Trumbull was imprisoned for seven months in London's Tothill Fields Bridewell.
In 1784 he was again in London working under West, in whose studio he painted his Battle of Bunker Hill and Death of Montgomery, both of which are now in the Yale University Art Gallery.
In 1785 Trumbull went to Paris, where he made portrait sketches of French officers for The Surrender of Cornwallis, and began, with the assistance of Jefferson, Declaration of Independence, well-known from the engraving by Asher Brown Durand. This latter painting was purchased by the United States Congress along with his Surrender of General Burgoyne, Surrender at Yorktown, and Washington Resigning his Commission, and these paintings now hang in the United States Capitol. Trumbull's The Sortie Made by the Garrison of Gibraltar, 1789, owned by the Boston Athenaeum, is now in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. Detail of The Sortie Made by the Garrison of Gibraltar Detail of The Sortie Made by the Garrison of Gibraltar, oil on canvas