John Singleton Copley, Boy with Squirrel
(Henry Pelham), 1765, oil on canvas, 30 1/4 x 25 in. The Museum of
Fine Arts, Boston, Anonymous gift. Photograph © 1996 The Museum of
Fine Arts, Boston.
Although he gained acclaim as America's finest colonial
portraitist, Copley had long sought the approval of the art establishment
in Britain. In 1766 he submitted a portrait
of his half-brother, Henry Pelham, to the Society of Artists of
Great Britain. Benjamin West and Joshua
Reynolds recognized his artistic promise, but deemed his technique
They advised him to study in Europe, where he might
develop a more painterly, fluid style. In 1774 Copley finally was able to realize
this ambition. He went first to London, and then spent a year in Italy
studying Renaissance paintings and antique sculpture.