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Bishop George Berkeley

John Smybert1727?

Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery

Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery

Born and educated in Ireland, Anglican clergyman Berkeley was a religious and intellectual leader in Great Britain. "Westward the course of empire takes its way," he prophesied in 1726, and two years later he departed for Britain's American colonies, settling in Newport, Rhode Island. He hoped eventually to establish a seminary on Bermuda. Accompanying Berkeley was the Scottish-born artist John Smibert, whom Berkeley had invited to serve as an art teacher at his new missionary college. Painted on the eve of their departure, Smibert's likeness represents Berkeley in his clerical robes, book in hand, pointing toward Bermuda, his desired destination. Despite his hopes, Berkeley did not receive the financial support necessary to realize this dream and returned to London in 1731. Smibert, however, stayed on in the American colonies, becoming one of the first professionally trained portraitists in the region.

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