Benjamin West (1738-1820)

Do you think you may own a painting by Benjamin West? We perform art authentications, art appraisals, art research and provide Certificates of Authenticity (COA) as well as consultations, for all paintings by this great artist. West was mainly self-taught when it came to the arts and had very little formal education to speak of. In fact, even when he became the president of the Royal Academy, it is said that West could barely spell. Born in Pennsylvania, West was the son of an innkeeper and began painting at an early age. One of his earliest influences was the famous British painter John Wollaston who taught him a number of techniques, from painting shimmery satin and silk to giving his subjects fashionable almond-shaped eyes. It is also said that West received some of his earliest artistic instruction from William Williams and Gustave Heselius.

Self-Portrait

Self-Portrait

West was mainly self-taught when it came to the arts, and had very little formal education to speak of. In fact, even when he became the president of the Royal Academy, it is said that West could barely spell. Born in Pennsylvania, West was the son of an innkeeper and began painting at an early age. One of his earliest influences was the famous British painter John Wollaston who taught him a number of techniques, from painting shimmery satin and silk to giving his subjects fashionable almond shaped eyes. It is also said that West received some of his earliest artistic instruction from William Williams and Gustave Heselius.

Three Ladies Making Music

Three Ladies Making Music

Lady Beauchamp-Proctor 1778

Lady Beauchamp-Proctor, 1778

Ann Barbara Hill Medlycot

Ann Barbara Hill Medlycot

He remained in Pennsylvania painting portraits until 1759 when he moved to Italy to continue his studies. There he studied and copied the works of the Italian masters, like Raphael and Titian, until 1763 when he moved to England. West was almost immediately commissioned to paint portraits of King George III and his family.

King George III

King George III

In 1768, West founded the Royal Academy of Arts with his friend and fellow painter Sir Joshua Reynolds. He served as president of the Academy from 1806 until his death in 1820. In 1772, West was appointed the official historical painter of the court and would also later serve as the Surveyor of the King's Pictures from 1791 until he died in 1820.

Colonel GuyJohnson and Karonghyontye 1776

Colonel Guy Johnson and Karonghyontye, 1776

Though already a fairly successful painter at this point, West truly began to gain notoriety at the exhibition of the Royal Academy in 1771 for his painting The Death of General Wolfe. Some critics initially snubbed this painting, but it eventually became one of the most reproduced pictures of its time.

The Death of General Wolfe 1770

The Death of General Wolfe, 1770

Early in his career, West was known for portraiture, but once he moved to England, he became famous for his historical paintings. These historical paintings were generally on a large scale and were what West called "epic representation."

Death of Nelson

Death of Nelson

Departure of Regulus from Rome

Departure of Regulus from Rome

Scene

Scene

In the 1770s and 1780s, West also started to slightly break away from Neoclassicism and began to experiment with Romanticism. He did this by incorporating fantasy themes and literary characters into his compositions, as well as creating dramatic effects through lighting.

Juno Receiving the Cestus from Venus 1771

Juno Receiving the Cestus from Venus, 1771

Venus Consoling Cupid Stung by a Bee

Venus Consoling Cupid Stung by a Bee

Christ Showing A Little Child as the Emblem of Heaven

Christ Showing A Little Child as the Emblem of Heaven

West also supported himself financially through the sale of engravings, which little is known about today in comparison to his paintings. West was also known to use gouache as well as oil paint, which was not as widely used at that time.

The Angel of the Resurrection lithograph

The Angel of the Resurrection, lithograph

The Sepulchre 1782 gouache on paper

The Sepulchre, 1782, gouache on paper

Today, West's paintings are housed all over New England and the United Kingdom and perhaps in your own home. Still wondering about a Colonial Era portrait or historical painting hanging in your family's estate? Contact us...it could be by Benjamin West.