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But within the last few years the popular interest in art has grown so rapidly in the country—as indicated by the establishment of numerous art schools and academies, art galleries, and publications treating exclusively of art subjects, together with many other significant proofs of concern in the subject—that it seems safe to assume that the first preparatory period of American art, so brilliant in many respects, is about closing, and that we are now on the threshold of another, although it is only scarcely three centuries since the first English colonists landed on our shores. ...Although receiving some early instruction from his step-father, Pelham, and enjoying opportunities denied to West, of studying portraits by foreign artists, yet Copley's advantages were excessively meagre; and whatever successes he achieved with his brush, until he finally settled in England at the age of thirty-nine, were entirely his own, and can be proudly included among the most valued treasures of our native art. ...No painter was ever more in sympathy with his age than Copley; and thus, when we look at the admirable portraits in which his genius commemorated the commanding characters of those colonial days, in their brilliant and massive uniforms, their brocades and embroidered velvets, and choice laces and scarfs, the imagination is carried back to the past with irresistible force, while, at the same time, we are astonished at the ability which, with so little training, could give immortality both to his contemporaries and his own pencil.
About Samuel Greene Wheeler (S.G.W.) Benjamin, the Author:
Born in Argos, Greece, but then educated in the United States, he pursued careers as a journalist, author, and diplomat. In 1883, he was appointed as the first American Minister to Persia, a post he occupied for two years.