American Adversaries charts the rise and spectacular success of contemporary history painting in the 18th century through two innovators in colonial America: Benjamin West (1738–1820) and John Singleton Copley (1738–1815). This extensive exhibition offers a revealing look at their ambitious, competitive and highly successful lives. West and Copley — initially friends but eventually bitter rivals — created theatrical paintings that romanticized current events and captured the imaginations of the art-viewing public.
At the core of the exhibition are two works that catapulted these artists to international fame: West's The Death of General Wolfe and Copley's Watson and the Shark. These paintings have not been presented together in more than 60 years and never before in this context. The two key paintings are joined by works of art from all over the Atlantic World, providing greater perspective and meaning.
American Adversaries: West and Copley in a Transatlantic World comprises oil paintings, works on paper, sculptures, and artifacts. Among the other artists represented are George Romney, Gilbert Stuart and John Trumbull.
On view through Jan. 20.