Benjamin West
Anglo-American painter



We do our best to use images that are open source. If you feel we have used an image of yours inappropriately please let us know and we will fix it.


Our writing can be punchy but we do our level best to ensure the material is accurate. If you believe we have made a mistake, please let us know.


If you are planning to see an artwork, please keep in mind that while the art we cover is held in permanent collections, pieces are sometimes removed from display for renovation or traveling exhibitions.

Benjamin West
Anglo-American painter
Average: 4.3 (3 votes)

Birth Date

October 10, 1738

Death Date

March 11, 1820

lheard's picture


Raphael? Michelangelo? Benjamin West didn’t get the hype.

If his glowing biography is to be believed, West was born a prophecy and died a legend. Such high praise may seem an exaggeration of his talent, but young Benjamin was so committed to his craft that he fashioned his own brushes out of cat hair. Although his feline friend Grimalkin surely resented the bald patches, West’s ingenuity hinted at greater innovations yet to come. In a long and unconventional career, furry art supplies were the least of many creative exploits.

West developed both his artistic sensibility and his inflated ego at a young age, painting his first portrait at age seven. Benjamin’s delighted parents were unsurprised by their son’s talent, having predicted his importance before his birth. Allegedly, a pregnant Mrs. West was so overcome by the tirade of Quaker orator Edmond Peckover that she immediately went into labor. Peckover, no doubt flattered by the profound effects of his doomsday prophecies, agreed with the Wests that Benjamin was no ordinary child. Benjamin clearly took his parents’ convictions to heart, developing a personality not unlike Draco Malfoy’s. Thinking himself a budding Botticelli, West once declined to ride a horse with a young classmate whose aspirations to a simple life as a tailor he deemed unsavory. If Benjamin’s later refusal of a knighthood from the British crown seems too humble to be true, you’d be right: West thought “Sir” an inadequate title and aspired to a peerage.

Although Benjamin never did become a peer, he settled for a close second: West was both a founder and the second president of the Royal Academy of Arts. He also kept a prestigious inner circle, including Benjamin Franklin (godfather to his son) and King George III, for whom he acted as court history painter. Unfortunately, the flashy duo would split up after West met with Napoleon in Paris shortly after the end of the Napoleonic Wars. George was clearly offended by his star artist’s willingness to exchange pleasantries with Britain’s recent enemies— 19th century monarchs were evidently the territorial sort.



  1. “Benjamin West.” Wikipedia. June 27, 2018. Accessed June 29, 2018.
  2. “Benjamin West PRA (1738-1820).” Royal Academy. Accessed June 29, 2018. .
  3. “Benjamin West.” Encyclopedia Britannica. January 29, 1999. Accessed June 29, 2018.
  4. Galt, John. The Life and Studies of Benjamin West Esq. President of the Royal Academy of London, Prior to his Arrival in England. London: T. Cadell & W. Davies, 1816.

Featured Content

Here is what Wikipedia says about Benjamin West

Benjamin West PRA (October 10, 1738 – March 11, 1820) was an American-born artist, who painted famous historical scenes such as The Death of Nelson, The Death of General Wolfe, and Benjamin Franklin Drawing Electricity from the Sky.

Entirely self-taught, West soon gained valuable patronage, and he toured Europe, eventually settling in London. He impressed George III and was largely responsible for the launch of the Royal Academy, of which he became the second president (after Sir Joshua Reynolds). He was appointed historical painter to the court and Surveyor of the King's Pictures.

West also painted religious subjects, as in his huge work The Preservation of St Paul after a Shipwreck at Malta, at the Chapel of St Peter and St Paul in Greenwich, and Christ Healing the Sick, presented to the National Gallery.

Check out the full Wikipedia article about Benjamin West.

Comments (4)


Did West really have a cat called Grimalkin? Just for that he gets an extra star.


That makes 3 stars then am I right? Ha ha what a joke history forget him!


Very funny


You think that's funny? Am I funny to you? Is art history amusing to you? It makes you laugh? Eh?Ok, I guess I am pretty funny.