John Singleton Copley ( 1738 – 1815 ) , was an American painter born in Boston, Massachusetts. From the clip Copley began to paint at the age of 15, many people throughout Massachusetts admired his pictures ; besides, people from other colonial metropoliss recognized his portrayal pictures. A large inspiration and benefit to him was his stepfather, Peter Pelham, a successful English engraver, painter, and teacher [ 1 ] .
At the age of 21 Copley left Boston to go around Europe to larn more about the art of picture. First, he went to London where he met Benjamin West, a well-thought-of painter around Europe and an established painter in the Royal Academy. While in London, he learned different techniques from West.
These techniques seemed common in London, but were unknown in America. Copley wrote in a missive back place to his stepfather stating him about a simple technique he had learned “…Before picture, make drawings.” [ 2 ] From there Copley moved on to Paris where his assurance grew even more as he saw firsthand pictures from the best known painters in Europe at the clip. As he got the opportunity to see plants from his two favourite creative persons, Poussin and Rubens, Copley started chalk outing every clip he saw something he thought was a beautiful signifier. 3 ]
When he arrived in Rome, Copley would lift early in the forenoon and study alleviation and old-timer statues at the Gallic Academy. Although confident about his abilities to chalk out and paint, he worked meekly on all the inside informations of his picture undertakings. At the terminal of his stay in Rome, Copley faced a difficult determination ; return to America, the state he was born in and loved, or travel to London where his art calling would boom. At this clip, the American Revolution had started and he feared for the well-being of his household back in Boston. Although the fright for his household was strong, Copley decided that traveling to London would be the lone topographic point where he could sell his historical pictures, for which he had been working on indefatigably around Europe. While he was seeking to do this difficult determination, his household was already on a ship to London unbeknownst to him. [ 4 ]
This picture is the narrative of Brook Watson, which took topographic point in Havana seaport, Cuba around 1749 when he was merely 14 old ages old. Watson, an orphan was working as a crewmember on a trading ship. While he was swimming entirely out in the seaport early in the forenoon, a shark attacked him. His shipmates ran to his deliverance, but non before the shark attacked him at least two times. Harmonizing to narratives, Watson and Copley met while they were going from Boston to England in 1774. However, history says that Watson ne’er traveled that twelvemonth. Copley must hold heard the narrative and its inside informations from Londoners who might hold been Watson ‘s political followings. [ 5 ]
Watson and theShark is a big oil picture on canvas mensurating 183.51 ten 229.55 centimeter ( fig. 1 ) . Copley decided to picture the dramatic scene where Watson was about to be attacked for the 3rd clip by a shark. This picture is a work during Copley ‘s English period ; it was such a great success from the beginning that it was put on show at the Royal Academy in 1778.
Watson, who is naked in this picture and the shark assailing him are in the foreground ( fig. 1 ) . The shark has already devoured Watson ‘s right leg, as we can see from figure 1 Watson ‘s right leg is losing from the articulatio genus down. The shark is turning toward Watson, with its oral cavity wide-open and crisp teeth suggests that he is non satisfied, and is returning to complete what he has started. [ 6 ] Besides Watson, in a little boat, two of his shipmates are making to catch him and draw him on the boat. One of them is seeking to contend off the shark by immersing a harpoon at the monster from the bow of the boat. A rope thrown at him is swinging useless in the H2O. This picture has captured a minute of fright and unhappiness in the faces and eyes of every adult male on that boat.
The quiet Waterss of the seaport serve Copley in the composing of the picture to convey the spectator ‘s attending to the action. Copley ‘s arrangements of elements in the picture allow the spectator to follow the action. The boat is coming from the seaport toward the shark. The motion of the shark that is taking a bend and a portion of his organic structure is outside the picture. We can clearly follow the motion of the harpoon that the crewman is immersing toward the shark. In add-on, the motion of the work forces toward the male child makes the scene even more tragic. ( Fig. 1 ) .
Watson and the Shark, even though away centre, are the focal points in this picture. The creative person has successfully made this a tragic scene, by doing Watson appear as he is frozen in the minute, portraying him precisely the manner he was in those minutes fighting for his life. The shark with his oral cavity broad unfastened and his crisp dentitions painted in item make the scene even more dramatic to the spectator.
The creative person has portrayed Watson naked in the H2O helpless on his dorsum, which shows him as really vulnerable. His has a freighted expression in his face, with his oral cavity and eyes broad unfastened looking straight at the shark, which seems to stand for the evil marauder, and one manus up every bit if he is making for aid from the celestial spheres. The creative person has painted the Sun lifting in contrast with the state of affairs, but has besides put the visible radiation on Watson the shark and the crewmembers seeking to acquire him out of at that place.
The prevailing colour is sea green with some brighter colourss in the background. These drab colourss contribute in picturing these tragic minutes in this scene. Sadness is all over the faces of work forces in the boat. The composing is centered at the adult male in the center of the boat. All around him there is action.
Lines seem to be less of import than forms for the creative person in this picture. The creative person has been really careful in painting the work forces on the boat and picturing their actions, so that the narrative and single actions of each adult male in this scene would be really clear to understand to the spectator. However, the most inside informations have gone to portray the state of affairs in which Watson is in, and to demo his exposure.
While most reappraisals around this picture describe it as a picture that is depicting a historical event, Irma Jaffe references in her diary, “ John Singleton Copley ‘s ‘Watson and the Shark, ‘” that people have missed one really of import facet of Copley ‘s life ; his spiritual life. As Jaffe points out, Copley was a really spiritual adult male, he went to church every Sunday and faith had played an of import function in Copley ‘s position of himself every bit good as an creative person. She says that this picture is about “resurrection and salvation” [ 7 ]
In her diary, she takes on the symbolism of the shark as a monster as described in the Bible and the symbolism of H2O as a life-giver and a test in the Bible. Jaffe so analyzes all the other elements. It is noticeable that Copley has taken airss from earlier sculptures and set them in his picture. He has taken them and set them in different places to carry through his concluding picture.
Copley made the attempt to paint every item. The shark has really elaborate characteristics ; his dentitions and eyes were painted in item to demo the true nature of this evil animal. Watson ‘s hair, his eyes, and his facial look were painted in item. Copley truly wanted the spectator to acquire involved in the tragic narrative that had happened to his frequenter, Brook Watson.
[ 1 ] Rebora, Carrie.John Singleton Copley in America. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1995. p. 79.
[ 2 ] Plate, Robert.John Singleton Copley America ‘s First Great Artist. United States of America: David McKay Company, Inc. , 1969. p. 100.
[ 3 ] Plate, Robert.John Singleton Copley America ‘s First Great Artist. United State of America: David McKay Company, Inc. , 1969. p. 101.
[ 4 ] Plate, p. 105-109
[ 5 ] Jeffery, Margaret. “ A Painting of Copley ‘s English Period. “ Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, New Series1.4 ( 1942 ) : 148. Web. 03 Mar 2010.
[ 6 ] Jeffery, p. 148
[ 7 ] Jaffe, Irma B. “ John Singleton Copley ‘s “ Watson and the Shark ” . “ American Art Journal9.1 ( 1977 ) : 15-25. Web. 03 Mar 2010.