Artist: John Singleton Copley (American, Boston, Massachusetts 1738–1815 London)
Medium: Black and red chalk on blue laid paper
Dimensions: 14 3/8 x 23 in. (36.5 x 58.4 cm)
Credit Line: Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1960
Accession Number: 60.44.19
After settling in London in the fall of 1775, Copley made drawings for most of his English paintings, especially his history paintings. For “The Siege of Gibraltar” (1783–91; Guildhall Art Gallery, London), a stirring depiction of the British defense of the Rock in 1779–82 against Spanish and French forces, Copley made nearly one hundred chalk, graphite, ink, and watercolor 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. This drawing is squared for transfer to canvas and includes notations regarding that process.