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The Life, Studies, and Works of Benjamin West, Esq. Composed from Materials Furnished by Himself   By: (1779-1839)

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The Life, Studies, and Works of Benjamin West, Esq.

President of the Royal Academy of London

Composed from Materials Furnished by Himself

By John Galt, Esq.

Author of the Life and Administration of Cardinal Wolsey, &c.


Part I.

To Alexander Gordon, Esq. This little work Is respectfully inscribed By the Author.


The professional life of Mr. West constitutes an important part of an historical work, in which the matter of this volume could only have been introduced as an episode, and, perhaps, not with much propriety even in that form. It was my intention, at one time, to have prepared the whole of his memoirs, separately, for publication; but a careful review of the manuscript convinced me, that the transactions in which he has been engaged, subsequently to his arrival in England, are so much of a public nature, and belong so immediately to the history of the Arts, that such a separation could not be effected without essentially impairing the interest and unity of the main design; and that the particular nature of this portion of his memoirs admitted of being easily detached and arranged into a whole, complete within itself.

I do not think that there can be two opinions with respect to the utility of a work of this kind. Mr. West, in relating the circumstances by which he was led to approximate, without the aid of an instructor, to those principles and rules of art, which it is the object of schools and academies to disseminate, has conferred a greater benefit on young Artists than he could possibly have done by the most ingenious and eloquent lectures on the theories of his profession; and it was necessary that the narrative should appear in his own time, in order that the authenticity of the incidents might not rest on the authority of any biographer.

April 25,1816.

John Galt.


Chap. I.

The Birth and Paternal Ancestry of Mr. West. His Maternal Family. His Father. The Origin of the Abolition of Slavery by the Quakers. The Progress of the Abolition. The Education of the Negroes. The Preaching of Edmund Peckover. His Admonitory Prediction to the Father of West. The first Indication of Benjamin's Genius. State of Society in Pennsylvania. The Indians give West the Primary Colours. The Artist's first Pencils. The Present of a Box of Colours and Engravings. His first Painting.

Chap. II.

The Artist visits Philadelphia. His second Picture. Williams the Painter gives him the works of Fresnoy and Richardson. Anecdote of the Taylor's Apprentice. The Drawings of the Schoolboys. Anecdote relative to Wayne. Anecdote relative to Mr. Flower. Anecdote relative to Mr. Ross. Anecdote of Mr. Henry. The Artist's first Historical Picture. Origin of his Acquaintance with Dr. Smith of Philadelphia. The friendship of Dr. Smith, and the character of the early companions of West. Anecdote of General Washington.

Chap. III.

The course of instruction adopted by Provost Smith. The Artist led to the discovery of the Camera. His Father becomes anxious to place him in business. Extraordinary proceedings of the Quakers in consequence. The Speech of Williamson the Preacher in defence of the Fine Arts. Magnanimous Resolution of the Quakers. Reflections on this singular transaction.

Chap. IV.

Reflections on the Eccentricities of Young Men of Genius with respect to pecuniary matters. The Death of the Artist's Mother. The Embodying of the Pennsylvanian Militia; an Anecdote of General Wayne. The Artist elected Commandant of a corps of Volunteer boys. The circumstances which occasioned the Search for the Bones of Bradock's army. The Search. The Discovery of the Bones of the Father and Brother of Sir Peter Halket. The Artist proposed afterwards to paint a Picture of the Discovery of the Bones of the Halkets. He commences regularly as a Painter. He copies a St... Continue reading book >>

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