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American Paintings and Sculpture
Artist: John Smibert, American, born Scotland, 1688–1751
Subject: George Berkeley, Irish, 1685–1753

The Bermuda Group (Dean Berkeley and His Entourage)

1728, reworked 1739

Oil on canvas

69 1/2 × 93 in. (176.5 × 236.2 cm)
Gift of Isaac Lothrop
The Bermuda Group commemorated an ambitious venture to found a seminary in Bermuda. Frustrated with what he saw as a corrupt European civilization, the philosopher and Anglican cleric George Berkeley (far right) believed that only in the New World would a religious and cultural rebirth be possible. His patron, John Wainright (seated), commissioned the artist John Smibert (standing left), whom Berkeley had hired to teach at the new college, to create this portrait of the expeditionary party, which included two additional wealthy supporters and members of Berkeley’s family. When the seminary project failed for lack of funds, Berkeley’s entourage returned to England, but Smibert moved to Boston and established himself as America’s first professional painter. Despite Berkeley’s misfortune, his poem “Verses on the Prospect of Planting Arts and Learning in America” became a touchstone for the new nation: “There shall be sung another golden age / The rise of empire and of arts / … Westward the course of empire takes its way.”
On view
18th century

The painting remained in Smibert's studio until 1808, at which time it was the property of John Johnston; Isaac Lothrop, Plymouth, MA. (1808); Presented by Isaac Lothrop to President Dwight of Yale, as a present to Yale College


Alan Shestack, ed., Yale University Art Gallery Selections (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 1983), 40–41, ill.

Susan B. Matheson, Art for Yale: A History of the Yale University Art Gallery (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 2001), 5–6, fig. 2.

Margaretta M. Lovell, Art in a Season of Revolution: Painters, Artisans, and Patrons in Early America (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2005), fig. VIII.

Angela Miller et al., American Encounters: Art, History, and Cultural Identity (Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 2008), 120, fig. 4.29.

Helen A. Cooper et al., Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness: American Art from the Yale University Art Gallery, exh. cat. (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 2008), 21, 28–29, ill.

Karl Kusserow, “Technoloogy and Ideology in Daniel Huntungton’s Atlantic Cable Projectors,” American Art: Smithsonian American Art Museum 24 (2010): 100, fig. Fig. 8.

Deirdre Ni Chuanachain, Utopianism in Eighteenth-Century Ireland (Cork, Ireland: Cork University Press, 2016), 96, fig. 4.

Donald L. Fennimore and Frank L. Hohmann III, Claggett: Newport’s Illustrious Clockmakers (Winterthur, Del.: Winterthur Museum, Garden, and Library, 2018), 26–27, fig. 11.

Edward S. Cooke, Jr., Inventing Boston: Design, Production, and Consumption (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2019), 106–107, fig. 114.

Note: This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the Yale University Art Gallery’s complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of such records is ongoing.