John Singleton Copley

Study for ‘The Collapse of the Earl of Chatham’

c.1779

Medium
Oil paint on canvas
Dimensions
Support: 635 x 768 mm
frame: 460 x 840 x 110 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Purchased 1879
Reference
N01072

Display caption

This is a study for a large painting to commemorate an incident in the House of Lords on 7 April 1778, when the great statesman William Pitt, Earl of Chatham, collapsed with a fatal stroke while speaking against American independence. Because he supported the colony's interests in every other respect, he was greatly admired by most Americans, including Copley. The recent event is presented here as a grand historical drama, on a scale usually reserved for ancient history. Although carefully composed and enhanced (the peers, for instance, were not wearing their official robes at the time), the work remains faithful to reality with over fifty accurate portraits of those present.

Gallery label, September 2004

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