Sunday, July 01, 2007

Presenting the Draft

David McCullough discusses John Trumbull's depiction of July 4, 1776.
That Trumbull felt deeply the symbolic importance of his subject there is no doubt, in both versions of the scene. Nor does he leave any question about the importance of both Jefferson and Adams in how he has placed them in the composition. Jefferson stands tallest, as he did in real life. His red vest further draws our attention, and it is he who holds the document in his hands. But it is Adams alone who is presented full-figure, and who has been placed at the exact center of the composition. (Lines drawn from opposite corners of the painting cross in the middle of Adams's chest.) It was Jefferson's declaration, Trumbull seems to be saying, but it was Adams who stood at the center of what happened, in that it was he who got the Congress to cast the all-important unanimous vote for the Declaration.