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The Western Brothers

Date: 1783
Dimensions:
49 1/2 x 61 3/4 in. (125.7 x 156.8 cm.)
frame: 64 x 75 7/8 x 4 1/4 in. (162.6 x 192.7 x 10.8 cm.)
Medium: oil on canvas
Credit Line: The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens
Object Number: 14.7
Label Text:Charles and Shirley Western are portrayed at their home, Rivendell, situated on 100 acres in Essex, England. John Singleton Copley created a complex and energetic portrait by showing the boys and dog interacting with the space in front of them. Shirley draws Charles's attention to something outside the canvas, and their dog seems about to leap out of the painting toward the viewer.

The brothers wear relatively loose, informal clothing and the long hair fashionable for boys in the period. Their wealth as members of the landed gentry is implied by Shirley's gold watch chain and Charles's elephant-head walking stick. Charles draws a landscape, an activity that demonstrates his education and taste.

Copley painted The Western Brothers after moving to London in 1776 from Boston. To become successful in the competitive British art market, Copley began painting grand compositions with loose brushstrokes like the portraits produced by popular artists of the day such as Thomas Gainsborough.