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A Revolution in Color

The World of John Singleton Copley


Jane Kamensky (Author)

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This bold new history recovers the American Revolution, as seen through the eyes of Boston-born painter John Singleton Copley.

In this life of painter John Singleton Copley, Jane Kamensky untangles the web of principles and interests that shaped the age of America’s revolution. Copley’s talent earned him the patronage of Boston’s leaders but he did not share their politics and painting portraits failed to satisfy his lofty artistic goals. A British subject who lamented America’s provincialism, Copley looked longingly across the Atlantic. When resistance escalated into war, he was in London. A painter of America’s revolution as Britain’s American War, the magisterial canvases he created made him one of the towering figures of the British art scene. Kamensky brings Copley’s world alive and explores the fraught relationships between liberty and slavery, family duty and personal ambition, legacy and posterity—tensions that characterised the era of the American Revolution and that beset us still.


“... I commend Kamensky's skill as a writer. Even if you had little interest in such a man as Copley, this is a deeply enjoyable book.” — David Aaronovitch, Book of the Week, The Times

“Jane Kamensky’s brilliant new biography... a spirited and at times heartbreaking narrative of [Copley’s] life and the tumultuous world he inhabited.” — Literary Review

“...intriguing... richly layered biography...” — Times Literary Supplement

“Jane Kamensky has not only crafted a stunning biography but also a truly singular account of The American Revolution. A Revolution in Color masterfully unravels any easy distinctions between patriots and loyalists.” — Amanda Foreman

“... lively and insightful book... Kamensky has produced an exemplary historical biography... A Revolution in Color is a thumping good read and makes a significant contribution to our appreciation of the often misunderstood and underappreciated Copley.” — Loyd Grossman, The Burlington Magazine

“... very readable account of the life and times of John Singleton Copley.” — The Art Newspaper

“Copley was in London when resistance escalated into war. This profile brings his world alive, exploring the difficult relationships between liberty and slavery, family duty and personal ambition.” — What We're Reading, The Independent


Winner — Massachusetts Book Award, 2017

Related to this Book

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Jane Kamensky Wins Historical Society Book Prize

The New York Times feature by Jennifer Schuessler