As Jane Kamensky’s brilliant new biography demonstrates with insight and elegance, John Singleton Copley had one of the great second acts in any artist’s life. When Copley, colonial America’s leading portrait painter, ran into the juggernaut of the Revolution, he reluctantly left his homeland, never to return. Setting up shop in London, he produced some of the most influential history paintings in Western art. During this phase of his career, he also pioneered new, not always appreciated pathways for the modern artist as a self-promoting, fortune-hunting entrepreneur. It was Copley’s third act that didn’t go so well.
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'He was not a revolutionary at all of course. He was only marginally a socialist. His tradition was rooted in the Liberal aristocracy, and his politics were entirely bounded by Parliament.'
From the archive, Paul Foot on Tony Benn's diaries.
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