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The Cover
July 3, 2002

First News of the Battle of Lexington

JAMA. 2002;288(1):15. doi:10.1001/jama.288.1.15

Once well known, lauded, loved, and sought after, today William Tylee Ranney (1813-1857) is little more than a footnote to the history of 19th-century American painting. The subject of a slim monograph and a single entry of a couple of dozen lines in a 30-volume dictionary of art, Ranney is eclipsed by the fame of his contemporaries: William Sydney Mount, Arthur Fitzwilliam Tait, Eastman Johnson, George Caleb Bingham, John George (J. G.) Brown, George Henry Durrie, Karl Bodmer, Francis William Edmonds, to mention only a few of his generation. Like them, Ranney was primarily a genre or anecdotal painter, although he aspired to history paintings and did in fact do several. His genre paintings took the rapidly evolving American frontier as their subject: there were scenes of trapping parties, duck shooters, scouting parties, caravans of wagons on the plains, families encamped on the prairie; one of the most poignant is a painting of a grieving family who has just buried one of its members along the trail and now must move on if they are not to be overtaken by winter. Ranney's history paintings concentrate on the Revolutionary War (which had ended some 40 years before he born), but unlike other history painters of his time (for example, the slightly older John Trumbull, JAMA covers, June 28, 1965, July 24, 1966, and February 20, 1967) Ranney painted not officers, battles, or the surrender of generals, but the so-called common people. Thus, even his history paintings are, in a sense, genre paintings. First News of the Battle of Lexington (cover ) is a good example of this category of work.

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