West, Benjamin


West, Benjamin
born Oct. 10, 1738, near Springfield, Pa.
died March 11, 1820, London, Eng.

U.S.-British painter.

After studying painting in his native Philadelphia, he established himself as a portraitist in New York City. He sailed to Italy in 1760 and visited most of its art centres before settling in London in 1763. The patronage of George III freed him of the need to paint portraits for a living, and he became known for historical, religious, and mythological subjects. His Death of General Wolfe (1771) aroused controversy for its depiction of modern dress rather than the flowing robes expected in a history painting, but it was one of his most popular works. He never returned to the U.S., but through such pupils and followers as Washington Allston, Gilbert Stuart, Charles Willson Peale, and John Singleton Copley he exerted considerable influence on the development of U.S. art in the 19th century.

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▪ American painter
born Oct. 10, 1738, near Springfield, Pa. [U.S.]
died March 11, 1820, London, Eng.

      American-born painter of historical, religious, and mythological subjects who had a profound influence on the development of historical painting in Britain. He was historical painter to George III (1772–1801) and a founder of the Royal Academy (Royal Academy of Arts) (1768), of which in 1792 he succeeded Sir Joshua Reynolds as president.

      As a young man, West showed precocious artistic talent and was sent to Philadelphia in 1756 to study painting. At 20 years of age he was a successful portraitist in New York City and in 1760, through the assistance of friends, he sailed for Italy, where Neoclassicism was rapidly gaining ground. West visited most of the leading cities of Italy and in 1763 went to London, where he set up as a portrait painter. His subsequent patronage by George III and the assurance of financial support from the crown absolved him of the necessity to continue to earn a living through portraiture. In London he soon became intimate with Sir Joshua Reynolds (Reynolds, Sir Joshua) and gained widespread popularity. “The Death of General Wolfe” (c. 1771; several versions exist), one of his best-known and—at the time—most controversial works, made a noteworthy concession to realism in its use of modern dress rather than antique drapery to depict a contemporary historical event within a classical composition. It was considered by many academicians to be an affront to the art of history painting, but ultimately it was a popular success and won Reynolds' approval.

      Though loyal to America, West retained the king's friendship and patronage until 1801. In 1802 he visited Paris and exhibited his final sketch for “Death on the Pale Horse” (c. 1802; several versions exist), which anticipated developments in French Romantic painting. He never returned to the United States, but through such pupils as Washington Allston, Gilbert Stuart, Charles Willson Peale, and John Singleton Copley, he exerted considerable influence on the development of art in that country during the first decades of the 19th century.

Additional Reading
Robert C. Alberts, Benjamin West: A Biography (1978).

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Universalium. 2010.

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  • West, Benjamin — West, Benjamin, in der neuern Kunstgeschichte Englands ein bedeutender Name, der größte Historienmaler, den dieses Land in jüngster Zeit aufzuweisen hat, ein Künstler von großem Talent, aber ohne jene überraschende Originalität, welche das Genie …   Damen Conversations Lexikon

  • West,Benjamin — West, Benjamin. 1738 1820. American painter. The first American to study art in Italy (1760 1763), he settled in England and quickly became a prominent artist. The Death of General Wolfe (1770) is among his most important works. * * * …   Universalium

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  • WEST, BENJAMIN —    painter, born near Springfield, Pennsylvania, of Quaker parentage; was self taught, painted portraits at the age of 16, went to Italy in 1760, and produced such work there that he was elected member of several of the Italian academies; visited …   The Nuttall Encyclopaedia

  • Benjamin West — Saltar a navegación, búsqueda Benjamin West, representado en un grabado antiguo. Pintor estadounidense, el primero de tal nacionalidad que alcanzó fama internacional (Springfield, Pennsylvania, 1738 Londres, 1820). Fue a Roma a formarse en arte,… …   Wikipedia Español

  • West — /west/, n. 1. Benjamin, 1738 1820, U.S. painter, in England after 1763. 2. Mae, 1892? 1980, U.S. actress. 3. Nathanael (Nathan Wallenstein Weinstein), 1902? 40, U.S. novelist. 4. Paul, born 1930, U.S. poet, essayist, and novelist, born in England …   Universalium

  • WEST (B.) — WEST BENJAMIN (1738 1820) Peintre américain. Bien que West soit né en Amérique et qu’il y ait appris la «partie mécanique» (selon ses propres termes) de la peinture, son œuvre est entièrement étrangère au développement de l’art américain. Au… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • west — /west/, n. 1. a cardinal point of the compass, 90° to the left when facing north, corresponding to the point where the sun is seen to set. Abbr.: W 2. the direction in which this point lies. 3. (usually cap.) a region or territory situated in… …   Universalium

  • West — West, Morris * * * (as used in expressions) West Point Bandaranaike, S(olomon) W(est) R(idgeway) D(ias) De La Warr, Thomas West, 12° barón Key West North West Co. Sackville West, Vita Victoria Mary Sackville West SWAPO sigla de South West Africa… …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • West — West, Benjamin, engl. Historienmaler, geb. 10. Okt. 1738 zu Springfield (Pennsylvanien), begründete 1768 die Kunstakademie in London, gest. das. 11. März 1820; Hauptbild: Tod des Generals Wolfe bei Quebec …   Kleines Konversations-Lexikon


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