Feel Art Again: Surrender of Lord Cornwallis

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The past few days included Veterans Day (Monday) and the anniversary of John Trumbull's death (Saturday). In honor of both, let's take a look at Trumbull's 1820 painting, "Surrender of Lord Cornwallis," which celebrated the end of the Revolutionary War.

1. John Trumbull's artistic achievements are impressive, especially since, as a child, the artist lost the use of one of his eyes.

2. Lord Cornwallis claimed sickness and did not attend the surrender ceremony, though many believe he only feigned sickness because he was so upset at the loss. Whatever his reason, his second-in-command, Gen. O'Hara (on foot, center), handed over the sword of surrender instead. George Washington, meanwhile, had heard of Cornwallis' plan, and chose to send his own second-in-command, Gen. Lincoln (on horse, center), to receive the sword. Although Washington was not present at the ceremony, Trumbull depicted him (on the right, on the brown horse) anyway.

3. The representation of Gen. O'Hara on foot next to a mounted Gen. Lincoln is historically inaccurate and was actually accidental. Trumbull had originally included a mounted Cornwallis in the painting, but modified the figure to be Gen. Lincoln, with Gen. O'Hara on foot next to him, when people pointed out that the depiction of Cornwallis was incorrect.

4. There are more mounted soldiers, including Trumbull himself, than there are horses beneath the soldiers.

5. Trumbull was president of the American Academy of Fine Arts for nine years, but his dictatorial behavior led the students to rebel against him and found the National Academy of Design.

6. Although Trumbull graduated from Harvard in 1773, he sold his personal collection to Yale University and was later buried, with his wife, beneath the Art Gallery created to house his collection.

(A much larger version of the painting is available on Wikipedia.)

Feel Art Again appears every Tuesday and Thursday.

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November 13, 2007 - 11:09am
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