The Battle of Bunker's Hill, June 17, 1775
Artist: John Trumbull, American, 1756?1843
He is the first painter who has undertaken to immortalize by his pencil those great actions that gave birth to our nation. He teaches mankind that it is not rank nor titles, but character alone, which interests posterity. Abigail Adams, March 4, 1786 Colonel Trumbull, an aide-de-camp to General Washington, a diplomat, and perhaps even a spy in the service of his country, declared that the great object of my wishes is to write in my language, the History of Our Country. His depictions of the key events of the Revolutionary War are among the most recognized and revered in American art. Trumbull began the Revolutionary War series with Bunker's Hill to commemorate the battle he considered to be the earliest important event in the war. He had witnessed the confrontation through field glasses while stationed across Boston Harbor at Roxbury. That day the British mounted three attacks on American fortifications guarding Bunker and Breed's Hills. Trumbull represents the climactic moment when the British successfully break through American lines, resulting in hand-to-hand combat. He shows the victorious British Major John Small magnanimously protecting the mortally wounded American General Joseph Warren from being bayoneted by a grenadier, who means to avenge the death of an officer who has fallen at his feet. By portraying the courage and sacrifice displayed by both American and British officers, Trumbull hoped to convey the message to future generations that honorable behavior transcends national boundaries.
This object is on view at the gallery.
Susan B. Matheson, Art for Yale: A History of the Yale University Art Gallery (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 2001), 16, 18, fig. 13.
Art for Yale: Collecting for a New Century, exh. cat. (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 2007), 354, fig. 1.
Angela Miller et al., American Encounters: Art, History, and Cultural Identity (Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 2008), 140, fig. 5.4.
Helen A. Cooper et al., Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness: American Art from the Yale University Art Gallery, exh. cat. (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 2008), 1, 25, 66, 8283, no. 31, ill.
Jennifer Greenhill, Playing It Straight: Art and Humor in the Gilded Age (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2012), 95, fig. 56.
Note: This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the Yale University Art Gallery's complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of such records is ongoing.