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July 04, 2009

The Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776

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David McCullough: No painting by an American artist has been so familiar to so many people for so very long as John Trumbull's "The Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776."

The idea for the painting was hatched by Jefferson and Trumbull in Paris 10 years after the fact, in 1786, while Trumbull was a guest at Jefferson's mansion on the Champs-Élysées. Trumbull, who was living in London at the time, had recently completed two remarkable historic paintings, "The Death of General Warren at the Battle of Bunker's Hill" and "The Death of General Montgomery at the Attack on Quebec," and was on fire to do more.

Subjects of "national history, of events of the Revolution," he later wrote, had become "the great objects of my personal life." In the course of a conversation in Jefferson's library, Jefferson drew a floor plan of the Assembly Room of the Pennsylvania State House as he remembered it, and on the opposite side of the same sheet of paper Trumbull made a tiny rough sketch remarkably close to what would turn out to be the final composition.

Canadian Flea-readers will understand I would have marked Dominion Day on July 1 if only such a day yet existed here in "Canada".

Posted by Ghost of a flea at July 4, 2009 05:48 PM