Work of Art: Study for “The Surrender of Lord Cornwallis at Yorktown”
John Trumbull
American
1756–1843
Study for “The Surrender of Lord Cornwallis at Yorktown”
1787–1794
Promised gift of Dr. and Mrs. James H. Goodnight

Our visual image of the American Revolution and the founding of the Republic owes much to the epic paintings by John Trumbull, the most celebrated painter of American history. Encouraged by Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, the artist conceived of twelve monumental canvases, each depicting a significant moment in the birth of the nation. This painting is the most complete study for the painting of the capitulation of the British forces at Yorktown. The scene is generally accurate, but the artist has heightened the drama and the message by drawing back the storm clouds to reveal a hopeful dawn. This study is so fully resolved that it may be considered a finished painting. Certainly the artist thought it finished enough to present it as a gift to Jefferson.

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