WEST, BENJAMIN (1738-1820, American-born British historical portrait painter, R.A.)
A charming double portrait of the handsome American painter and his son, also an artist. Born in Springfield, Pennsylvania, West received his first instruction in art from a Cherokee and he shaved a cat for his first brushes. At the age of eighteen he set up as a portrait painter in Philadelphia and afterwards at Lancaster and New York. He then travelled to Italy and received guidance from Raphael Mengs and Gavin Hamilton. In 1763 he settled in London as a portrait painter, and with Reynolds's encouragement exhibited historical subjects. West was one of the four chosen to draw up the plan of the Royal Academy, and was one of the original members nominated by the King, whose favourite painter he had become. He described himself in the Royal Academy catalogues as Historical Painter to the King from 1772 and was appointed Surveyor of the King's Pictures in 1791. He succeeded Reynolds as President of the Royal Academy. It was owing to his efforts that the British Institution was founded in 1805.
Valentine Green engraved plates after most of the leading contemporary artists, notably West's historical subjects. He became Mezzotint Engraver to George III and, doubtless with West's assistance, Keeper of the British Institution. He is acknowledged to have produced some of the finest mezzotints ever made.
REFERENCES: Chaloner Smith 138; Russell 138; O'Donoghue 443/25; Whitman - V. Green 49.