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. He taught 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 and 1780s West focused on religious themes. 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 painting methods he had learned in Pennsylvania. West studied in Italy for three years, 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

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