Benjamin West – Biography and Artwork of the American Painter

After Benjamin West, Benjamin West, c. 1776

Benjamin West is a renowned artist and esteemed painter hailing from Springfield, Pennsylvania. He was born on October 10, 1738 and is known affectionately as the Father of American Painting, or the Raphael of America. From an early age starting at 13 years old, he began his painting journey in Italy where he studied for three years, honing his skills and techniques to become a successful painter.

He pushed the definition of art abroad when he set out to England with several of his works that were seen as empowering his legacy. His paintings became highly sought after by influential people in London due to its depiction of recent history. In his later work, West shifted on a somber tone depicting melancholic stories derived from past events and experiences.

What Is Benjamin West Known For?

Benjamin West (1738-1820) is most known for his large-scale historical paintings. Throughout his career, he established an iconic style that has been referenced by many artists.

West studied art at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and soon moved to London to further pursue his career. In Europe he studied under Italian architects, which help shape his artistic form. He was highly influenced by 17th century Italian Caravaggios and this can be seen in his later works. Most of his works depict religious scenes as well as English victories from past wars, such as the Battle of Waterloo.

Not only did West work with oils on canvas, but he also painted murals including a grand representation of the Death of General Wolfe for London’s St. Pauls Cathedral in 1770 which drew international attention from art lovers all over Europe. He also painted portraits for Queen Charlotte and Catherine the Great among other famous figures in range that helped introduce the history-painting tradition into American Art Today.

Benjamin West has left behind a legacy like no other artist in American history through his well-known works such as The Death of General Wolfe or Treaty with the Six nations which have left a lasting impression on viewers today, making him a recognized artist within art history circles worldwide.

Who Was Benjamin West Influenced By?

Benjamin West was influenced by from a variety of sources including classical literature and European painters such as Raphael.

Who Did Benjamin West Influence?

West exerted considerable influence on the development of art in the United States through such young American painters as Gilbert Stuart, Charles Willson Peale, and John Singleton Copley.

What Art Movement Is Benjamin West Associated With?

Benjamin West is associated with the Neoclassical Art Movement. Neoclassicism is an art movement that originated around the late 18th century and favored structured forms, elegant line work, somber colors, and classical themes from Ancient Greece and Rome. Through large-scale history paintings like ‘The Death of General Wolfe’, West explored a variety of themes relating to religion, mythology, culture, society, and politics.

Famous Benjamin West Artwork

The Death of General Wolfe

“The Death of Nelson”


“Christ Appearing to St Peter”

“Murder of the Innocents”

“The Triumph of Peace”

“Claude and Agrippina”

“Death on a Pale Horse”

“Susanna and the Elders”

All Benjamin West Artwork on Artchive

Artwork Name Year Medium
The Death of General Wolfe 1770 Oil on Canvas
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