Images of Hamilton: John Trumbull

[Note: I am certainly no art historian, but I very much appreciate images of Hamilton as you can tell by my Facebook group: Alexander Hamilton: The Hotness Never Dies.  I’m going to use this series to focus on a few of the painters and sculptors who depicted Hamilton, and show some of the images of Hamilton I think do him the most justice.]

The Sierra Star recently published a piece on John Trumbull entitled “A Revolutionary Painter.”   Trumbull was an active participant in the revolution, and a military comrade of Hamilton.  He briefly served as an aide to Washington, and was involved in politics as he pursued his artistic career.  Trumbull produced some of the most iconic images of the Revolution and the Early Republic.  Trumbull painted several pictures of Hamilton, and featured him prominently in his group paintings of the Constitutional Convention and the Revolutionary War. 

Interestingly, Trumbull dined with both Hamilton and Burr on July 4, 1804.   In his autobiography, Trumbull recollected the event:

“On the 4th of July, I dined with the Society of the Cincinnati, my old military comrades, and then met, among others Gen. Hamilton and Col. Burr.  The singularity of their manner was observed by all, but few had any suspicion of the cause. Burr, contrary to his wont, was silent, gloomy, sour ; while Hamilton entered with glee into all the gaiety of a convivial party, and even sang an old military song.  A few days only passed, when the wonder was solved by that unhappy event which deprived the United States of two of their most distinguished citizens.”

Trumbull had planned to pursue his career in Boston, but found that the market for his services was too crowded by other artists.  He instead returned to New York, and was commissioned by the city government to paint whole length portraits of Jay and Hamilton.  Trumbull states that he created the portrait using the bust created by Ceracchi (and later bought by Jefferson to display in Monticello) as inspiration for those portraits.

This was painted in 1805, the year after Hamilton’s death, and Trumbull used various accumulated drawings as its basis.  This portrait is the basis for the design of the Ten Dollar bill. 

By John Trumbull, 1805. Courtesy National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institute, Washington, DC 

(The best bill!  Image found here)

This 1792 portrait has Hamilton standing at his desk “an inkwell with quill at hand-the heroic pose of a writer and thinker at the pinnacle of his career.”

This 1832 portrait was copied from an original that Trumbull had painted in Washington in 1792. 

From the Yale University Art Gallery eCatalogue

Trumbull is an interesting historical figure in his own right.  If you’re interested in reading more about him, I suggest looking at his Autobiography or John Trumbull : a brief sketch of his life, to which is added a catalogue of his works (1901) by John Ferguson Weir.

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