American Art Project
Baptism of Pocahontas by John Gadsby Chapman
Baptism of Pocahontas was commissioned in 1837 and was installed in the Rotunda in November of 1840. The painting depicts a time when the Christian beliefs of the colonists and their relationships with the Native Americans were beginning to overlap. It is obvious upon studying all the people surrounding Pocahontas that there are mixed feelings throughout about her joining the Christian faith. While some subject seem to be supporting her choice, others like her brother and uncle seem to be against it and have turned their back toward the ceremony. During the time that Chapman was painting Manifest Destiny was occurring in America. This was a time where American settlers were taking over and Native Americans were made to feel that they would either have to submit to the settlers or be banished from their homes. The attitudes of the Native Americans versus the settlers can be seen depicted here. While the settlers look arrogant and stand above the Native Americans with weapons, the Indians sit on the floor huddled looking onward sheepishly or looking away. I think Chapman’s message and integration of content with context is very effective and obvious in this painting. It clearly depicts the historical event with reflection of the current attitudes between Native Americans and settlers during the time he was painting it. I don’t think it is difficult as a modern viewer to understand what is going on here, or see what the feelings of each person is.
Declaration of Independence by John Trumbull
Declaration of Independence was commissioned in 1817. Upon its completion in 1818 it was displayed in various locations throughout New England. Finally, in 1826 it was permanently placed in the Rotunda where it remains today. The painting depicts June 28, 1776, the day the Declaration of Independence was presented in its first draft. In...