Colonial artists who possessed the requisite skill set were sought by the merchant and professional classes ostensibly for portraiture. There was very little demand, prior to the Federal Period and later, for landscape, still life, or religious-based imagery. But there was a consistent expectation on the part of patrons for facial likenesses or resemblances. Jonathan Richardson, in his book The Theory of Painting (1715), made the following observation of the artisan who attempts to engage the patron for a portrait: “As his (the portraitist’s) business is chiefly with people of condition, he must think as a gentleman, and a man of sense, or it will be impossible to give such their true and proper resemblances.” Do you agree with Richardson’s notion that Copley, to capture the likeness of his friend and patron Paul Revere, needed to be a gentleman in his thinking and a man of good reason and bearing in his mind? Your thoughts?
John Singleton Copley, Portrait of Paul Revere, 1768