Benjamin West Information and Inventory

Benjamin West

(1738 - 1820)

Benjamin West


Though West is acknowledged as the “father of American painting,” only one known signed, significant work of his was executed in this country. Now that is puzzling. Through the efforts of supportive friends in his native Philadelphia, young West was sent to Europe at twenty years old with hopes he would be America’s first professionally trained painter. Intelligent, sophisticated, and articulate, he settled into Europe brilliantly and remained there the rest of his life, becoming a charter member of the Royal Academy at its founding in 1768. At the death of Sir Joshua Reynolds in 1792, West became the president of the Royal Academy for all but two of his remaining years. His history and narrative paintings were brilliant, but his influence on his American contemporaries and later generations, as well as his generosity in guiding and teaching legions of young Americans visiting London, ensured his continuous imprint on painting back in America. It is said his close friendship with the King of England remained strong even during the Revolutionary War, despite West’s total support for the cause for independence. He is known to have counseled the Monarch on the rebel point of view. The Scottish Chieftan is a pen and ink study for The Apotheosis of Nelson, circa 1807, and was acquired at auction in 1969 by my father. This era and style of work was never a focus in our family; however, I suspect my father saw an opportunity to appease his wife (of Scottish ancestry) with a work of art of her own. This is frequently a wise decision.

Benjamin West Gallery

No paintings by this author