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The Cover
June 12, 2002

Sir William Pepperrell and His Family

Author Affiliations

The Cover Section Editor: M. Therese Southgate, MD, Senior Contributing Editor.

JAMA. 2002;287(22):2909. doi:10.1001/jama.287.22.2909

One of the first paintings John Singleton Copley (1738-1815) completed after his arrival in London in 1775 was Sir William Pepperrell and His Family (cover ). It was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1778 to much acclaim, confirming the reputation that had preceded him and justifying the opinions of Benjamin West and Sir Joshua Reynolds. (West had remarked that his coloring was worthy of Titian himself.) Nonetheless, despite the encouragement—even urging—of West and Reynolds, Copley had come reluctantly to London. From the time he was 15, he had been a successful portrait painter in his native Boston. He had not only developed a lucrative practice, but had achieved a critical reputation as well, a reputation that would survive for more than two centuries: he is still called "America's finest Colonial painter" (JAMA cover, July 3, 1996). Whether it was the impending war (it was his father-in-law's tea that had been dumped into Boston Harbor) or whether it was his overwhelming desire to learn more of European art and to achieve his life's dream, to become a history painter, Copley, finally, at age 36, left Boston, never to return. After a year's study in Italy, he settled in London and sent for his wife and children, who had remained behind in Boston with his mother and half-brother.

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