Past Events

In Circulation: John Singleton Copley and Benjamin West in England, France and America


  • 28 March 2014
  • 3:15 – 10:00 pm
  • Public Study Room, Paul Mellon Centre
Sailors in dingey struggling to get away from shark

John Singleton Copley, Watson and the Shark, 1778

Digital image courtesy of National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.

This symposium and webinar follows on from the international loan exhibition American Adversaries: West and Copley in a Transatlantic World, held at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston between 5 October 2013 and 20 January 2014. It explores aspects of the work and careers of the American-born artists Benjamin West and John Singleton Copley, focussing in particular on the ways in which they engaged with the exhibition and print cultures of their day, particularly in Britain, but also in France and America. The paintings of both artists moved between and across very different spaces of display, and were increasingly geared to satisfying the demands of a growing exhibition-going public. Just as importantly, Copley and West's paintings were regularly translated into graphic form. Engravings as well as exhibitions promoted their work to audiences in Britain, France and America, and helped give both artists an international reputation. The symposium and webinar will investigate the ways in which these forms of display and dissemination shaped both artists' practice and reputations across transnational visual cultures.