J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Saturday, March 28, 2015

Filling in the Hole in West’s Painting

Yesterday I showed an image of Benjamin West’s painting of the American diplomats who went to Paris to negotiate the end of the War for Independence.

As shown above, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and John Jay signed the treaty of peace with Great Britain. West also pictured Henry Laurens and William Temple Franklin, two other Americans involved in the negotiation. But he couldn’t get David Hartley to represent the British side he had signed for, so West abandoned the painting.

In the last few decades, at least two New England artists stepped in to fill that hole.
In 1983 the U.S. Postal Service commissioned a painting for a stamp commemorating then bicentennial of the treaty signing. David Blossom of Weston, Connecticut, created the image above, showing the treaty signers only—and Hartley from the rear. Esther Porter adapted the image for the stamp. Blossom’s original painting now belongs to Winterthur.
In the last decade, David R. Wagner of Scotland, Connecticut, undertook a series of paintings about events along the Rochambeau Revolutionary Route. To that he added an image of the Treaty of Paris, based on West’s original, but with Hartley inserted, reportedly based on other portraits.

Wagner’s painting was shown at the Carroll Museum in Baltimore and at Yorktown in 2008. Judging by the artist’s website, it is now available for purchase.

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