Benjamin West

Special thanks to the Microsoft Corporation for permission to use following biographical information from Microsoft® Encarta '97:

Benjamin West, an American painter of historical scenes and portraits, was one of the leading artists of his time. He was born in Springfield (now Swarthmore), Pennsylvania, and was largely self-taught. He painted portraits in Philadelphia from 1746 to 1759. He went to Italy in 1759 and acquired a classical style of painting by copying the works of such Italian masters as Titian and Raphael. In 1763 West moved to England, where he soon gained the friendship of the English portraitist Sir Joshua Reynolds and the patronage of King George III, who commissioned him to execute portraits of members of the royal family and, in 1772, appointed him historical painter to the court. West was a founder, in 1768, of the Royal Academy of Arts and on Reynolds's death in 1792 succeeded him to the presidency. He became a leader of the developing realistic movement when his painting The Death of Wolfe (1771, National Gallery, Ottawa) broke the usual tradition of depicting soldiers in contemporary battle scenes wearing Greco-Roman costumes.

West encouraged and influenced many young American painters who studied under him in London, among them Gilbert Charles Stuart and John Singleton Copley.

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