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 "hard."

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.

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.

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