Portrait of Hugh Montgomerie, Later Twelfth Earl of Eglinton

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Portrait of Hugh Montgomerie, Later Twelfth Earl of Eglinton

United States, 1780
Paintings
Oil on canvas
Canvas: 94 1/2 × 59 3/4 in. (240.03 × 151.77 cm) Frame: 106 1/2 × 69 1/2 × 6 in. (176.53 × 15.24 cm)
Gift of Andrew Norman Foundation and Museum Acquisition Fund (M.68.74)
Currently on public view:
Resnick Pavilion, floor 1 MAP IT
Resnick Pavilion, floor 1

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Curator Notes

In 1780, at the time this portrait was painted, it was forbidden to wear Scottish tartan in England unless one was serving in the British military....
In 1780, at the time this portrait was painted, it was forbidden to wear Scottish tartan in England unless one was serving in the British military. Scotsman Hugh Montgomerie is portrayed here commanding a British battalion, wearing traditional attire; his clan tartan reflects at once his Scottish heritage and the recent military expansion of the British Empire into the Scottish Isles following the 1746 Battle of Culloden. Montgomerie stands in the victorious classical pose of the Apollo Belvedere above a group of fallen Tsalagi (Cherokee) amid an ambush. However, the portrait does not tell the truth: Although Montgomerie fought for the British in the colonies, he did not take part in the battle depicted here, which occurred in 1760, twenty years prior to the execution of this painting. More significantly, the Cherokee did not capitulate in this battle as Copley’s painting suggests. A few weeks after Britain’s attack, the Cherokee prevailed and European troops retreated from the area. Such images of conquest inevitably contribute to the erasure of those portrayed as the defeated, generating an assumption that once the depicted battle was lost, these groups or peoples disappeared. But a single flattering portrait–cum–history painting does not constitute abiding truth—the British went on to lose the American Revolutionary War, the Cherokee Nation would become the largest tribe in the territory known as the United States, and, as of this writing (2021), a significant political movement for independence from the United Kingdom persists in Scotland.
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About The Era

Although the thirteen colonies that would constitute the United States of America were founded by several different nations, by 1763 (the end of the French and Indian Wars), the British controlled mos...
Although the thirteen colonies that would constitute the United States of America were founded by several different nations, by 1763 (the end of the French and Indian Wars), the British controlled most of North America from the Atlantic Ocean to the Mississippi River. In many respects the American colonies functioned like an English province. Culturally they were largely British; from interior design and dress to painted portraits, wealthy colonists emulated the London fashions of the period. However, there was often a time lag, as examples of the finest British furniture, household goods, and decorative items such as paintings had to be transported across the ocean.

At first the only trained artists and artisans in the colonies were emigrants from London who thought fame would be easier to achieve in the less competitive atmosphere of Boston or Philadelphia. By the end of the eighteenth century, this traffic had reversed somewhat, as American artists went to London for their training. Portraits were the most popular genre, since British citizens everywhere wanted visual records of their families and heroes. Historical and literary subjects, such as those by Benjamin West, were usually only painted in London; their appreciation required a more educated audience than was the case with many colonists. The pervasive influence of Britain would continue to affect the development of culture in the United States long after the Revolutionary War had severed the Crown’s political authority.
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Label

Exhibition Label, 1997 ...
Exhibition Label, 1997 This portrait of a Scottish officer who fought in the French and Indian Wars brilliantly evokes the internationalism of 18th-century British life and culture. Copley was already the foremost portraitist in the American colonies before he moved to England in 1775. He abandoned the New World for political reasons; however, the move enabled him to paint more elevated themes than the American portrait trade had afforded him. In London he demonstrated his virtuosity by abandoning his tight, linear brushwork for the greater bravura and flair of fashionable London portrait painters such as Sir Thomas Lawrence. Copley’s depiction of Hugh Montgomerie also demonstrates the artist’s success in the new field of contemporary history painting. Montgomerie served in the 77th Regiment of Highlanders, who fought at Fort Ticonderoga on Lake Champlain and Fort Duquesne in present-day Pittsburgh. Copley presented Montgomerie on the heroic scale of grand-manner portraits and posed him after one of the most famous statues of antiquity, the Apollo Belvedere. The palette of deep greens, reds, and blacks and the threatening clouds enhance the drama of the gruesome scene in the lower left.
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Bibliography

  • About the Era. LACMA collections online. Retrieved on 12/30/2009 from http://collectionsonline.lacma.org/mweb/aa/abouttheera/early_american_paintings_abouttheera.asp
  • Donahue, Kenneth.  X, a Decade of Collecting:  1965-1975.  Los Angeles:  Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1975.
  • About the Era. LACMA collections online. Retrieved on 12/30/2009 from http://collectionsonline.lacma.org/mweb/aa/abouttheera/early_american_paintings_abouttheera.asp
  • Donahue, Kenneth.  X, a Decade of Collecting:  1965-1975.  Los Angeles:  Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1975.
  • Donahue, Kenneth. Los Angeles County Museum of Art Handbook. Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1977.
  • Fort, Ilene Susan and Michael Quick.  American Art:  a Catalogue of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art Collection.  Los Angeles:  Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1991.
  • LACMA: Obras Maestras 1750-1950: Pintura Estadounidense Del Museo De Arte Del Condado De Los Angeles. Mexico, D.F.: Museo Nacional de Arte, 2006.
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