John Singleton Copley was born in Boston, the son of Irish immigrants. His step-father, Peter Pelham, was a portrait painter and engraver and, after Pelham's death in 1752, Copley continued his artistic education through books and prints. A visiting English artist, Joseph Blackburn, helped develop his style and Copley emerged as New England's best portrait painter, sending work for exhibition in London from 1766. In 1774 Copley left America for good and settled in London after spending a year in Italy. As well running a busy portrait studio, Copley produced ambitious history paintings, the most successful of which take dramatic contemporary events as their subject.