Art, Speculation, and Diplomacy: John Trumbull, A Federalist Painter in Europe, 1780-1816


Luce/ACLS Dissertation Fellowships in American Art


History of Art and Architecture


This dissertation reassesses the European career of the American artist Colonel John Trumbull (1756-1843). While Trumbull’s tenuous status as an American artist abroad in the tumultuous years that span the American and French Revolutions has been studied assiduously by art historians, little attention has been paid to his additional roles as a Federalist diplomatic agent and a commercial speculator in Europe. Contextualized within a discursive web of profit, risk, and eighteenth-century ‘sciences’ of economy and taste, this new perspective presents the artist as an homo economicus—an artistic visionary empowered by an overreaching marketplace while simultaneously burdened by its pervasive complexity. Moreover, this dissertation explores the ambiguous rhetoric of late eighteenth-century Federalist domestic and foreign policy, and the role of artist as envisioned and performed by Trumbull therein.