Key Ideas about this Work of Art
- This painting depicts messengers telling the townspeople of Lexington, Massachusetts, to prepare to fight the British. The Battle of Lexington was the first battle of the American Revolutionary War.
- This is an example of a genre painting. It depicts a scene from everyday life.
- William Tylee Ranney was a genre painter. He is best known for his paintings of ordinary people in scenes that relate to western life, hunting, and historical events.
- Ranney created this painting at the beginning of the Mexican-American War, many years after the Battle of Lexington took place.
In this pre-war scene, several men on horseback are spreading the news of the first battle of the American Revolutionary War. Farmers and local shop workers are shown answering the call to gather their weapons and fight the British. The famous phrase “shot heard round the world” refers to the first shot of the Battles of Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775. The Battles of Lexington and Concord started the Revolutionary War, which led to the creation of the United States.
William Tylee Ranney was a 19th-century American painter. He is best known for his genre paintings of western life, hunting scenes, and historical subjects. His paintings show ordinary people responding to important events in history. Ranney did not depict heroes or dramatic battle scenes in his work.
When Ranney was 13 years old, he moved to Fayetteville, NC. He lived there with his uncle and worked as a tinsmith apprentice. It is believed that Ranney created his first sketches during that time.
Ranney served in the Texas army in 1836, in the fight for independence from Mexico. The nine months he spent in Texas influenced much of his later work. He painted First News of the Battle of Lexington 72 years after that battle took place. When he created this war-themed painting, the Mexican-American War had just begun. Mexico and the United States were fighting over territory in Texas, and a new generation of Americans was preparing to fight another country in the spirit of “progress.”
Tags: Revolutionary War, communication, narrative
Resources for Teachers
- Watch a video about another painting by Ranney.
- Read an article about how Texas became a state.
- Read an article about American genre painting.
Resources for Students