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C.V. Starr Center for the


Study of the American Experience

John Trumbull’s “Battle of Bunker Hill” and Historical Fiction


Date: 5:00pm EDT January 31, 2013 EST

A talk by John Walsh, Director Emeritus, J. Paul Getty Museum

As a young adjutant to General Washington, the American painter John Trumbull witnessed from a safe distance the Battle of Bunker Hill in 1775.  Living in London ten years later, he painted the battle.  His picture is one of the greatest and best-known of all American history paintings.  Walsh looks at it in detail to see how Trumbull constructed it, to what extent he reflects the historical record, and the ways fiction serves his purposes better than mere fact.

John Walsh is Director Emeritus of the J. Paul Getty Museum. He served as Director from 1983 until October 2000. After graduating from Yale in 1961, he took M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from Columbia and spent a Fulbright year at the University of Leyden. He was Lecturer and Research Assistant at the Frick Collection in New York, then Associate for Higher Education at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Between 1970 and 1975 he was Curator in the Department of European Paintings and taught part-time at Columbia; he then became Professor of Art History at Barnard and Columbia. He returned to museum work as Curator of Paintings at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, where he remained, serving for a time as Visiting Professor of Fine Arts at Harvard, until his move to Los Angeles in 1983.

At the Getty Museum, Walsh oversaw the enlargement and strengthening of the staff; the expansion of the scope of the collections and their dramatic growth; the conception, programming, and construction of a new and much larger museum in Los Angeles; the inception of an ambitious program of international exhibitions; and the planning for renovations to the former Getty Museum in Malibu, now the Getty Villa.

Walsh was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1997. He serves on the boards of the Yale University Art Gallery and the Hammer Museum. He was a member of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton in 2002, and since 2003 he has been teaching part time at Yale, where in 2004 he gave the Andrew Carnduff Ritchie Lectures, Works of Art and the Work of Architecture. Later in 2013 he will give a series of twelve public lectures in New Haven called “Let This Be a Lesson to You: Heroes, Heroines, and Narrative in Paintings at Yale.”

Sponsored by The Department of Art and Art History, Kohl Gallery, the C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience, and the Art History Club.



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