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John Smibert, un peintre écossais dans les colonies britanniques d’Amérique du Nord

Abstract : In September 1728, the Scottish portrait painter John Smibert boarded a ship bound for North America. With John James, Richard Dalton and Thomas Moffat, Smibert had accepted to accompany George Berkeley in order to take part in his project to establish a college in the British colony of Bermuda. This institution was to be set up to train missionaries in charge of propagating the Anglican faith among the native population. In 1725, Berkeley had already exposed his plan in his pamphlet entitled A Proposal for the better supplying of churches in our foreign plantations, and for converting the Savage Americans to Christianity by a college to be erected in the Summer Islands, otherwise called the Isles of Bermuda. However, it was not before 1728 that Berkeley was able to leave Great Britain for the British colonies, after having obtained a promise for a grant of £20,000 from the Parliament and found teachers for his future college. Smibert had been chosen to teach the fine arts. Berkeley never got the grant from the British Parliament and in 1731 he decided to return to Great Britain. As for Smibert, he settled permanently in Boston where he worked as a portraitist. Of this aborted project there remain several paintings executed by Smibert, the most famous being the portrait known as The Bermuda Group, which represents Berkeley with his family and the men who had accepted to accompany him to the British colonies. This article aims at assessing the role of Smibert in Berkeley’s project as well as Smibert’s influence on the eighteenth-century pictorial art of the British colonies of North America. Nowadays, art historians still consider that Smibert contributed to the development of American painting. A study of a few paintings will show us that through Smibert, Scottish painting deeply influenced several American painters of the second half of the eighteenth century.
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Marion Amblard. John Smibert, un peintre écossais dans les colonies britanniques d’Amérique du Nord. Etudes écossaises, ELLUG, 2013, Ré-écrire l’Écosse : littérature et cinéma, pp.165-182. ⟨hal-01848049⟩

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