Benjamin West was born in Pennsylvania near Philadelphia on October 10, 1738.
He started out his career painting children’s portraits. Later, he began painting historical scenes with many different people depicted in great detail. He became instantly famous for painting scenes of historical events happening at the time, such William Penn’s Treaty with the Indians, and The Death of General Wolf ~ an event that happened during the French and Indian War. At that time, artists only painted historical events from literature or the Bible, not current events.
Some important people thought it was wrong to paint pictures of people wearing modern clothing. They urged him to only create paintings of men in togas. West refused writing, “The same truth that guides the pen of the historian should govern the pencil of the artist.”
However, more than anything else, Benjamin West loved painting historical events from the Bible.
Two wealthy families sent West to Italy to study under the great masters there. West then went to England and began hobnobbing with the famous artists of the time. He and several of them founded the Royal Academy of the Arts there.
West loved the attention and fame he received in England so he never returned to his home in Pennsylvania. He therefore did not fight in the American Revolution.