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A Revolution in Color

The World of John Singleton Copley

Jane Kamensky (Author)

Overview | Formats

“A sensory tour de force.” —Caitlin Fitz, The Atlantic

In this intimate portrait of the painter John Singleton Copley and his extraordinary times, award-winning Harvard historian Jane Kamensky gives “a wonderfully fresh and surprising perspective on the American Revolution” (Stephen Greenblatt), a world riven by divided loyalties and tangled sympathies. Though Copley’s prodigious talent earned him the patronage of Boston’s patriot leaders, including Samuel Adams and Paul Revere, he did not share their politics and lamented America’s provincialism. When painting portraits failed to satisfy his lofty ambitions and colonial resistance escalated, Copley looked longingly across the Atlantic, repatriating to London where he gained renown as the painter of Britain’s American War. With a “vibrant prose style, Kamensky probes deeply” (New York Times), bringing new insight to this tumultuous period as seen through a towering figure of both Britain’s and America’s artistic legacies.

Book Details

  • Paperback
  • October 2017
  • ISBN 978-0-393-35486-7
  • 5.6 × 8.3 in / 544 pages
  • Sales Territory: Worldwide

Other Formats

  1. Book CoverA Revolution in Color: The World of John Singleton Copley


Endorsements & Reviews

“Far from a born partisan, Copley could have gone either way. Kamensky’s great accomplishment is to leave readers pulled by different audiences, demands, and political allegiances right along with him.” — Caitlin Fitz, The Atlantic

“Vivid, intimate, and richly detailed, Jane Kamensky’s biography of John Singleton Copley illuminates the deeply intertwined worlds of America and England at the moment of their violent divorce. The career of the great painter from Boston provides a wonderfully fresh and surprising perspective on the American Revolution, on the scope of artistic ambition, and on the high costs of divided loyalty.” — Stephen Greenblatt, author of The Swerve

“A memorable journey into the transatlantic world in the age of revolution through a close study of the greatest colonial American artist. Kamensky, a historian with an art historian’s sensibility, provides a brilliant survey of John Singleton Copley’s life, work, and subjects, vivified by a detailed examination of letters, diaries, and official records, many previously untapped, to involve the reader in the emotional and sensory experience of living in those tumultuous times.” — Jules Prown, Yale University

“Jane Kamensky has not only crafted a stunning biography but also a truly singular account of the American Revolution. A Revolution in Color masterfully unravels any easy distinctions between patriots and loyalists.” — Amanda Foreman, author of The World Made by Women

“The greatest American artist of the eighteenth century, John Singleton Copley, preferred life in Britain, escaping from the bitter civil war that we call the American Revolution. In this brilliantly insightful and lucidly written biography, Jane Kamensky reveals the age of revolution in fresh new tones as complex and compelling as the interplay of light and shade in the finest Copley painting.” — Alan Taylor, author of American Revolutions

“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, Booklist (starred)

“There may never be a better biography of Copley than this sumptuous, exquisitely told story of a man and his time.” — Kirkus Reviews (starred)

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