Monday, January 10, 2011

John Trumbull and Artistic License

I was watching an HBO movie on John Adams over the weekend. At one point, the movie showed a scene where John Trumbull presented the painting that he did of the signing of the Declaration of Independence to John Adams. I think that he was expecting a positive response, however, he was disappointed. Adams pointed out that when the Declaration of Independence was signed, there was no assembly of men to witness the event. Signers came and went individually or in small groups, almost surreptitiously. So, Adams was a bit put out that Trumbull took artistic license with this. After all, he was a stickler for detail and historical accuracy.
It is a good example of an artist taking artistic license with history, and in my opinion, it went too far. I am all for adding or deleting items that might improve a composition, but in this case because paintings were historic depictions of events during this time in history, it implied false information about the event to the American people.
John Trumbull was an American artist during the time of the Revolutionary war. He painted many scenes of wartime activities and statesmen and was known for his historical paintings.
This painting is hanging in the Rotunda of the US capitol.


Kevin Mizner said...

Interesting, Patti. Isn't it funny that most great historical paintings--this one, Washington crossing the Deleware, and others--are really pure figments of an artists imagination? I guess depicting an empty room with a sign by the Declaration saying "sign this when you have a moment" isn't quite as dynamic!

Patty Meglio said...

Yes, Kevin. Adams made it sound a lot less dramatic. I think that Trumbull liked to stage his characters in his paintings. It kind of gives an artificial look though, that would not be as appealing today but was in his time. He did get his subjects to pose individually for him, and he painted the room as he saw it, but the setup and arrangement was of his own design.