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Art + History: Watson and the Shark by John Singleton Copley

Daytime Program

Noon Lecture/Seminar

Wednesday, July 22, 2020 - 12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m. ET
Code: 1K0016
This program is part of our
Smithsonian Associates Streaming series.
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Watson and the Shark by John Singleton Copley, 1778


  • This program is part of our Smithsonian Associates Streaming series.
  • Platform: Zoom
  • Online registration is required.
  • For multiple registrations, you will be asked to supply individual names and email addresses.

Great art is timeless, and speaks to us across time, culture and space. Yet great works come from real people living real lives—whether their work was made 5 minutes or 500 years ago. Popular Smithsonian Associates speaker Paul Glenshaw looks at great works of art in their historical context. He delves into the time of the artist, explores the present they inhabited, and what shaped their vision and creations.

In Watson and the Shark by John Singleton Copley, the artist recreated a dramatic, life-threatening moment from the experience of a young sailor, depicting both a place (Havana harbor) and a sea creature the artist had never seen. What brought this expatriate American painter living in London two years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence together with Brook Watson, who commissioned the work?

Glenshaw examines this complex painting and its period to explore the world Copley depicted, what brought Watson to that terrifying encounter in Havana harbor, and Watson’s motivation for having it captured in art years later.

Glenshaw is an artist, educator, author, and filmmaker with more than 25 years' experience working across disciplines in the arts, history, and sciences. He teaches drawing for Smithsonian Associates and studied painting at Washington University in St. Louis.

World Art History Certificate elective: Earn 1/2 credit*

Art and History Lectures

If you are interested in additional Art + History lectures, view the upcoming schedule:

Patron Information

  • Once registered, patrons will receive two emails: one is an automatic email confirmation and the second will include a link to the Zoom webinar as a follow-up (usually given within 24 hours of registration).
  • NOTE: If you do not receive your follow-up email from Zoom, please email Customer Service for assistance.


*Enrolled participants in the World Art History Certificate Program receive 1/2 elective credit. Not yet enrolled? Learn about the program, its benefits, and how to register here.