John Trumbull’s portrayal of the signing of the Declaration of Independence gives our nation’s defining moment a human face and serves as a symbol of American independence. The Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776 belongs to a series begun in the 1780s, just after the Revolutionary War. Almost two hundred years later—as the United States celebrated its Bicentennial—a renewed wave of patriotism compelled artists to respond to questions about the personal meaning of independence. Anchored by Trumbull’s monumental canvas, a print by Larry Rivers provides an alternate account of the signing of the Declaration while another by Fritz Scholder suggests a broader and more complex view of history. In addition, contemporary works by Vito Acconci, Martin Kline, and Sheila Pree Bright use images of the American flag to address questions of identity through three distinct perspectives. The six artworks in Portraying Independence are supplemented by a companion display nearby in the Auerbach Art Library drawn from the archives.
Images: John Trumbull, The Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776, 1832. Oil on canvas. Purchased by Daniel Wadsworth and members of the Atheneum Committee, 1844.3; Larry Rivers, An Outline of History, 1975. Lithograph and silkscreen on paper. Gift of Lorillard, a Division of Loew’s Theaters, Inc., 1976.12; Fritz Scholder, Bicentennial Indian, 1975. Lithograph on paper. Gift of Lorillard, a Division of Loew’s Theaters, Inc., 1976.14.