West, Benjamin

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Expatriate painter Benjamin West (1738-1829) was born in Springfield, Pennsylvania and worked in Pennsylvania and New York before settling in London as a portrait painter and historical painter to King George III. West initially studied with local artist William Williams in Pennsylvania and began painting portraits in Pennsylvania and New York in the 1750s. Around 1760 he traveled to Italy to study art and then settled in London as a portrait painter and remained in Europe for the rest of his life. He received many commissions under the patronage of George III and in 1772 was appointed historical painter to the King.

A leader in neoclassicism and a mentor to many young English and American artists including John Constable, Charles Willson Peale, Gilbert Stuart, and John Singleton Copley, West became the first American artist to receive international recognition. Among his best-known works are Death of General Wolfe (1770) and Penn's Treaty with the Indians (1772). In these, and other historical paintings, he maintained the compositional elements of neoclassicism but departed from tradition by painting historical figures in the clothing of their period, rather than in classical attire.

West was a co-founder of the Royal Academy of Arts with Sir Joshua Reynolds, and served as the Academy's president from 1792-1815.

Benjamin West died in London in 1820.

From the guide to the Benjamin West collection, 1771-circa 1879, (Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution)

Epithet: of Egerton MS 2182

British Library Archives and Manuscripts Catalogue : Person : Description : ark:/81055/vdc_100000001295.0x00007a

Epithet: PRA; of Add MS 47792

British Library Archives and Manuscripts Catalogue : Person : Description : ark:/81055/vdc_100000001028.0x0003bb

Epithet: PRA; of Add MS 35625

British Library Archives and Manuscripts Catalogue : Person : Description : ark:/81055/vdc_100000001028.0x0003ba

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Floyd Glenn Lounsbury papers, ca. 1935-1998, Circa 1935-1998 American Philosophical Society
referencedIn Letters of Samuel Johnson, LL.D., collected and edited by George Birkbeck Hill, extra-illustrated, 1413-1900 (inclusive), 1775-1839 (bulk). Houghton Library
referencedIn Donald Hyde and Mary Hyde Eccles Autograph Collection, 1505-1957 (inclusive), 1702-1854 (bulk). Houghton Library
referencedIn (XXI. ff. 343). Jan. 1787-Jan. 1790.includes:f. 1 Henry Pelham: Letter to the 2nd Lord Hardwicke: 1787. ff. 3, 146, 239, 301 Colonel Thomas Pownall, MP; Governor of Massachusetts and S Carolina: Letters to the 2nd Lord Hardwicke: 1778-1789. ff. 5-1... British Library
referencedIn Boswell's Life of Johnson : including Boswell's Journal of a tour to the Hebrides and Johnson's Diary of a journey into North Wales, edited by George Birkbeck Hill, extra-illustrated, 1464-1897 (inclusive), 1724-1874 (bulk). Houghton Library
referencedIn The life of Edmund Kean : from published and original sources, extra-illustrated Houghton Library
referencedIn Franklin-Bache Papers, 1707-1799 American Philosophical Society
referencedIn Vol. III. ff. i+205.Bookplates and Book-stamps: Hennell (Edward Whittaker): circ. 1885.Bindings ENGLISH: Red morocco, gold-tooled, by J. Zaehnsdorf: 19th-20th cent.Joseph Zaehnsdorf, bookbinder: Bound, 19th-20th cent.includes:ff. 1, 194-202 Art. P... British Library
referencedIn MISCELLANEOUS autographs and papers., 17th century-19th century British Library
referencedIn Papers concerning the Sir Joshua Reynolds estate, 1791-1906 (inclusive), 1791-1799 (bulk). Houghton Library
referencedIn ORIGINAL letters to John Douglas, D.D., Bishop successively of Carlisle and Salisbury, from statesmen, autbors, and others; with a few to his son, the Rev. William Douglas; 1748-1813. The writers are:-[William Pulteney, Earl of] Bath; Bath, Paris, 23..., 1650-1813 British Library
referencedIn Houghton Library printed book provenance file, R-Z and unidentified Houghton Library
referencedIn Johnsonian Miscellanies, extra-illustrated, 1538-1900 (inclusive);, 1738-1866 (bulk). Houghton Library
creatorOf Benjamin West collection, 1771-circa 1879 Archives of American Art
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Adams, John Quincy, 1767-1848 person
correspondedWith Boswell, James, 1740-1795 person
associatedWith Boydell, John, 1719-1804 person
associatedWith Fenton, William N., (William Nelson), 1908-2005 person
associatedWith Franklin, Benjamin, 1706-1790 person
associatedWith Haas, Mary R., (Mary Rosamond), 1910-1996 person
associatedWith Hawkins, Frederick William, 1849-1900 person
associatedWith Hill, George Birkbeck Norman, 1835-1903 person
associatedWith Houghton Library. person
correspondedWith Johnson, Samuel, 1709-1784 person
associatedWith Livingston, Robert R., 1746-1813 person
associatedWith Lounsbury, Floyd Glenn person
associatedWith Metcalfe, Philip, 1735-1818 person
associatedWith Spilsbury, Jonathan, fl. 1766-1823 person
associatedWith Sturtevant, William C. person
associatedWith Swadesh, Morris, 1909-1967 person
associatedWith Voegelin, C. F. (Charles Frederick), 1906-1986 person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Ireland, Europe
Alexandria, Egypt
Plymouth, Devon
Expatriate artists--England--London


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