West, Benjamin

West, Benjamin

biographical name

(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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