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First News of the Battle of Lexington (work of art)

Artwork Info

Created
1847
Nationality
American
Birth/Death
1813-1857
Dimensions
44 1/16 x 63 5/16 inches (111.9 x 160.8 centimeters)

Credit

Purchased with funds from the State of North Carolina

Object Number
52.9.25
Culture
American
Classification
Paintings
Department
American to 1910

Key Ideas

  • 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.

Learn More

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

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Images

  • A painting featuring three men on horseback, on a village road, gesturing toward something in the distance. Townspeople are shown coming out of nearby shops and houses. An empty wagon and additional figures on horseback are depicted on the right. There is a tall green tree on the left and a cloudy sky in the background.

    First News of the Battle of Lexington