Exploros_logo

Benjamin West #1

American-born Benjamin West was one of the most prominent artists in late 18th century in London. President of the Royal Academy from 1792 until his death, he received many commissions from George III and other English patrons, and he served as teacher to three generations of American artists in London. His earliest paintings were portraits of children.

He worked primarily as a painter of historical and religious subjects, and as a portrait painter.

West is best known for his influential history painting, The Death of General Wolfe (1771). Two later paintings with American subjects were Penn’s Treaty with the Indians (1771-1772) and the unfinished Signing of the Preliminary Treaty of Peace in 1782 (1783-84).

In the 1770s West began to focus on the religious themes that dominated his work of the late 1770s and 1780s. Most notable were his paintings on the progress of Revealed religion for the Royal Chapel and designs for stained glass for St. George's Chapel, both at Windsor Castle.

West mostly painted complex multifigure compositions and employed sophisticated glazing techniques that differed dramatically from the paintings methods he had learned in Pennsylvania. The extraordinary stylistic and compositional differences between West’s American and English work are due to his three years of study in Italy, where he was influenced by the painting styles and compositions of Italian Renaissance and baroque painters.

Later, West became a pivotal figure in educating American-born artists in England. This brought West's ideas and techniques back to the United States, providing a foundation for the growth of the arts in America.


Source: Benjamin West #1
© 2017 National Gallery of Art

Back to top