The English-born Charles Lee (1731-1782) was a controversial officer in the Continental Army during the American Revolution. A seasoned military man, Lee was reportedly incensed when he was passed over for the position of Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army in favor of George Washington. Lee’s animosity toward Washington eventually led to his arrest and court martial after he addressed Washington with “inappropriate language” at the Battle of Monmouth.
In 1775, at the outset of the Revolutionary War, there was an immediate demand in Britain and the Continent for likenesses of American political and military leaders. Accurate information was slow to travel from the colonies back to Europe, and artists often invented portraits with little basis in truth. In 1775, this likeness of Major-General Lee was published in London under the pseudonym of C. Shepherd, and supposedly based on a painted portrait by an artist named Thomlinson. No such portrait existed, and Lee’s likeness is a complete fiction: his contemporaries described him as a tall, slender, and unattractive man with a slovenly appearance.