National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of Patrick Tracy John Trumbull (painter)
American, 1756 - 1843
Patrick Tracy, 1784/1786
oil on canvas
overall: 232.5 x 133.7 cm (91 9/16 x 52 5/8 in.) framed: 252.8 x 154.9 x 10.7 cm (99 1/2 x 61 x 4 3/16 in.)
Gift of Patrick T. Jackson
1964.15.1
Not on View
From the Tour: American Portraits of the Late 1700s and Early 1800s
Object 7 of 8

Trumbull's Patrick Tracy reveals a young American painter adjusting to the Grand Manner of British portraiture. The subject, a shipowner and merchant from Newburyport, Massachusetts, stands on a shell-strewn beach amid crates and barrels of trade goods. Tracy's weathered face betrays his seventy-some years and typifies the straightforward realism of an American colonial artist. His body, however, with its delicate fingers and slender calves, approaches the idealized proportions advocated by British society portraitists.

Trumbull's account book for 1784 explains the contrast between honesty and flattery: "Whole length of Mr. P. Tracy (father of Nat) leaning on an anchor -- head copied." Thus while Patrick remained in America, his son arrived in London on business and lent the artist a portrait of his father from which to work. Trumbull then invented the body according to the sophisticated methods he was acquiring in Europe.

Trumbull, the son of a Connecticut colonial governor, received a great honor from his teacher Benjamin West while working on this life-size likeness. West, abandoning the idea of painting scenes from the Revolutionary War, turned the novel idea over to his pupil. Trumbull's carefully researched depictions of American patriotic history culminated in his world-famous murals in the Rotunda of the U. S. Capitol.

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