Grant Wood’s The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere offers a whimsical, child-like interpretation of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s well-known poem. The artist’s desire to preserve American folklore was part of his greater scheme to forge a national identity through art and history.
John Singleton Copley’s portrait, an idealized view of labor consistent with the democratic ideals of the New World, depicts Paul Revere as a working craftsman. At the time of this portrait, Revere was a successful silversmith—not an American hero. Still, Copley captured the heroic qualities of physical strength, moral certainty, and intelligence that allowed Revere to play a pivotal role in American history.
Picturing America is a project of the National Endowment for the Humanities, carried out in partnership with the American Library Association, which provides an innovative way to experience America’s history through our nation’s art. Visit the Picturing America website to learn more. For more videos like this, visit Picturing America on Screen.