Benjamin West and the Taste of His Times

Benjamin West and the Taste of His Times

Benjamin West and the Taste of His Times

Benjamin West and the Taste of His Times

Excerpt

The very colorful story of Benjamin West's rise from a humble innkeeper's son in Pennsylvania to the position of President of the Royal Academy in London has been often told. Recently his early pictures painted in America have been carefully analyzed to show what influences determined his first works, and his youthful associations with cultured men have been investigated. In this way considerable interest has been focused on West's early phase but, surprisingly, most of the figure compositions he painted in England, upon which his former reputation rested, remain unpublished and undiscussed.

The neglect of West's mature paintings is remarkable because he was a leader in forming European and American taste after his first success in London, 1766, until his death in 1820. During this time he exerted a very wide influence, helping to form the Royal Academy and extending generous aid to many American artists. Indeed, almost every American painter who reached maturity in these years felt West's influence to some degree. He won the warm admiration of his students, and his art was frequently praised by men of taste.

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