Benjamin West : Williams, John
Benjamin West (Williams, John)

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Artist: Benjamin West
Title: Williams, John
Year: 1766
Media: Oil on canvas, 31 3/4 x 42 3/4 inches (oval)
Provenance: Descended in the family of the sitter to W. A. Wiles; (Sotheby’s, London, May 3, 1961, lot 137); Julius Weitzner, London; Hirschl and Adler Galleries, New York, by 1967; an unidentified owner; (Sotheby’s, London, June 23, 1971, lot 87); Hirschl and Adler
Description: Signed and dated at lower left: “B. West PINXIT/1766”
RECORDED: Helmut von Erffa and Allen Staley, The Paintings of Benjamin West (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1986), p. 564, no. 715 (repro.)
EXHIBITED: Philadelphia Museum of Art, Benjamin West in Pennsylvania Collections (March 1- April 13, 1986)

From the time of his first professional work with the German Neoclassical painter Anton Raphael Mengs (1728-1779) in Rome in the early 1760s, West sought fame in history painting, which encompassed historical, religious, and literary subjects presented as moral lessons. He painted comparatively few portraits. The portrait illustrated here was executed in 1766, the same year as his history painting Agrippina Landing at Brundisium with the Ashes of Germanicus (Yale Art Gallery, New Haven), which captured the attention of the English king and the rest of Europe, making it unnecessary for West to depend on portrait commissions to earn a living. The horizontal oval format of this painting and the sitter’s “Van Dyck” costume–named for the style of dress seen in the portraits by the Flemish artist Anthony Van Dyck who died in London nearly a hundred years before West was born–are distinctive. Although no biographical information on the sitter has been found, it is known that West painted portraits of his wife and mother-in-law in the same format, and presumably at the same time (although, of the three, only this portrait is signed and dated).

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Price: Price upon request
Inventory: RS 5694
Category: •a:American•a:American expatriate•a:British•eighteenth century•male•portrait•
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