Jane Kamensky

discusses

A Revolution in Color:
The World of John Singleton Copley

This event includes a book signing

Date

Dec
14
Wednesday
December 14, 2016
8:00 PM ET

Location

Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138

Tickets

This event is free; no tickets are required.

Harvard Book Store and Mass Humanities welcome JANE KAMENSKY—Professor of History at Harvard University and author of The Exchange Artist—for a discussion of her latest book, A Revolution in Color: The World of John Singleton Copley.

About A Revolution in Color

Boston in the 1740s: a bustling port at the edge of the British empire. A boy comes of age in a small wooden house along the Long Wharf, which juts into the harbor, as though reaching for London thousands of miles across the ocean. Sometime in his childhood, he learns to draw.

That boy was John Singleton Copley, who became, by the 1760s, colonial America’s premier painter. His brush captured the faces of his neighbors—ordinary men like Paul Revere, John Hancock, and Samuel Adams—who would become the revolutionary heroes of a new United States. Today, in museums across America, Copley’s brilliant portraits evoke patriotic fervor and rebellious optimism.

The artist, however, did not share his subjects’ politics. Copley’s nation was Britain; his capital, London. When rebellion sundered Britain’s empire, both kin and calling determined the painter’s allegiances. He sought the largest canvas for his talents and the safest home for his family. So, by the time the United States declared its independence, Copley and his kin were in London. He painted America’s revolution from a far shore, as Britain’s American War.

An intimate portrait of the artist and his extraordinary times, Jane Kamensky’s A Revolution in Color masterfully reveals the world of the American Revolution, a place in time riven by divided loyalties and tangled sympathies. Much like the world in which he lived, Copley’s life and career were marked by spectacular rises and devastating falls. But though his ambivalence cost him dearly, the painter’s achievements in both Britain and America made him a towering figure of both nations’ artistic legacies.

Praise

"A pleasure to read from first page to last, Jane Kamensky’s exploration of the life, work and tumultuous times of John Singleton Copley is itself a masterpiece. Like all excellent portraitists, Kamensky probes deeply into the character of her subject, as deft with the small, revealing detail as she is with the sweeping strokes of landscape and setting. Both gripping narrative history and insightful art criticism, A Revolution in Color is a genre-busting tour de force." —Geraldine Brooks, author of The Secret Chord

"Beautifully written and elegant, A Revolution in Color gives us a vibrant and new perspective on the conflict between America and Great Britain, a conflict the ambitious John Singleton Copley embodied. Jane Kamensky enriches our understanding of this vital time in world history." —Annette Gordon-Reed, author of "Most Blessed of the Patriarchs"

"Richly resourced, prismatic, dynamic, factually and psychologically revelatory, and ebulliently spiked with political insights and ironies, Kamensky’s biography provides an intimate view of the American Revolution and its immediate aftermath as seen through the 'acute, penetrating' gaze of a masterful artist." —Donna Seaman for Booklist, starred review

Jane Kamensky
Jane Kamensky

Jane Kamensky

Jane Kamensky earned her BA (1985) and PhD (1993) in history from Yale University. She is Jonathan Trumbull Professor of American History at Harvard University and Pforzheimer Foundation Director of the Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America at Harvard Radcliffe Institute. A historian of British America and the United States, she is the author of numerous books, including A Revolution in Color: The World of John Singleton Copley (2016), which won four major prizes and was a finalist for several others. She is currently completing her next book, Candida Royalle and the Sexual Revolution, as a Leon Levy Biography Fellow at the CUNY Graduate Center. A former Commissioner of the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, Kamensky serves as a Trustee of the Museum of the American Revolution, and as one of the principal investigators on the NEH/ Department of Education-funded initiative, Educating for American Democracy.

Photo credit: Nina Subin

Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138

Walking from the Harvard Square T station: 2 minutes

As you exit the station, reverse your direction and walk east along Mass. Ave. in front of the Cambridge Savings Bank. Cross Dunster St. and proceed along Mass. Ave for three more blocks. You will pass Au Bon Pain, JP Licks, and TD Bank. Harvard Book Store is located at the corner of Mass. Ave. and Plympton St.

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Co-Sponsored by Mass Humanities

Mass Humanities

Mass Humanities conducts and supports programs that use history, literature, philosophy, and the other humanities disciplines to enhance and improve civic life in Massachusetts. Learn more at masshumanities.org.

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