One of the most interesting figures in the history of American art, John Copley was born in Boston in 1737. With English and Irish ancestry he was a typical product of 18th Century America. Tragically he lost his father in the year he was born and raised by his godfather, Peter Pelham, from whom he imbibed his initial artistic principles. From there, Copley was practically self-taught, yet he evolved a distinguished and direct portrait style with which he painted his New England clients.
With such success behind him, Copley left America for good in 1774. He roamed Europe, visiting Italy and other Mediterranean countries, but settled in London where his style altered profoundly. He developed a fierce competitiveness and rivalry with one artist in particular called West, which became a bitter lifelong feud. Copley died a vindictive and jealous old man in London in 1815.
Despite his famous grand manner, Copley's portraits of Georgian subjects have a delightful vivacity about them. His oeuvre is also notable for containing the first large pictures of contemporary history and the grand scale genre subjects of a type later common in France during the Napoleonic period and the Romantic movement. Copley's work features in many prestigious international collections.