JOHN SINGLETON COPLEY'S PORTRAITS: A TECHNICAL STUDY OF THREE REPRESENTATIVE EXAMPLES
J. William Shank
While the paintings of John Singleton Copley experienced wide stylistic swings between the time of Dorothy Murray and that of Mrs. Rogers, the physical make-up of his works seems to have changed very little indeed. This consistency is due in part to the fact that while still in colonial America, Copley was already using “colourmen” in London, where he would eventually live and work. His palette varies hardly at all between his American and his English works.
What is surprising in the Copley story is the fact that an artist of such tremendous ego, who tended to treat his peers with condescension if not outright contempt, should adapt his painting style at all toward that of his English contemporaries, as he seems to have done to some limited degree. The complexity of structure identifiable in Copley's later works remains, however, only an embellishment to the straightforward, direct manner with which the American-born artist had always applied paint to canvas.