Notes on Benjamin West and John Copley - The first American Artists

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Notes on Benjamin West and John Copley - The first American Artists  Empty Notes on Benjamin West and John Copley - The first American Artists

Post  aqalieh95 on Sat Mar 12, 2011 9:08 pm

Benjamin West (1738-1820)

  • Was a true rags to riches story
  • Lived in Philadelphia, and came from a Quaker background
  • Had little education, but was talented
  • Dr Smith sponsored him because of his talent
  • Went to Rome to study at the age of 22
  • Was exposed to classical Roman pose and style
  • Went to England and became good friends with King George III
  • Founded the National Academy of Arts in Great Britain
  • Was the father of American art and many of his students became great American artists
  • Was the official history painter of King George III and did paintings for historical events
Notes on Benjamin West and John Copley - The first American Artists  389px-Guy_Johnson_by_Benjamin_West
Portrait of Colonel Guy Johnson and Karonghyontye
Benjamin West, 1776, Oil on canvas

Characteristics of Benjamin West:

  • Has a neoclassical pose and lighting that he learned while studying in Rome
  • Makes Guy Johnson, the British man, look superior to the Native American because he is painting for the British government
  • Very dramatic, an element of neoclassical painting as well.


John S. Copley (1738-1815)

  • Was born in Boston to a poor Irish family
  • His dad was an engraver, and learned the skills of very good contour line drawing from an early age
  • Married a pro-British wife, so he was also in support of Britain
  • While he lived in Boston, he did portraits of wealthy people
  • Right before the war for independence in the US, he left for Great Britain to avoid the conflict
  • Learned from Benjamin West and became one of his best students
Notes on Benjamin West and John Copley - The first American Artists  495px-J_S_Copley_-_Boy_with_Squirrel
Boy with Squirrel
John Singleton Copley, 1765, Oil on canvas

Characteristics of J S Copley

  • Is very good at expressing people's personalities using subtle techniques, and the objects in their hand. For example, in this, he has a squirrel in his hand, and is looking away, and has a cuffed collar, so he looks like he loves the outdoors and is active.
  • The boy is wearing fancy silk clothes and his squirrel is chained with gold, so he is from a very wealthy family.

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