John Singleton Copley (American, 17381815)
Black and red chalk on blue laid paper; 14 3/8 x 23 in. (36.5 x 58.4 cm)
Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1960 (60.44.19)
After settling in London in the fall of 1775, Copley made drawings for most of his English paintings, especially his historical scenes. For The Siege of Gibraltar (178391, Guildhall Art Gallery, London), a stirring depiction of the British defense of the Rock in 177982 against Spanish and French forces, Copley made nearly one hundred chalk, graphite, ink, and wash drawings. He worked on the painting for eight years, as he time and again altered and compromised his ideas according to the wishes of the members of the Corporation of the City of London, who had commissioned the painting. The extant drawings document the artist's working method and his thought processes in the course of devising such a monumental work. This three-figure chalk drawing is probably a preliminary study for soldiers in the gunboat, although it was not used in the final composition. It is squared for transfer to canvas and includes notations regarding this process.