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Creator:
Benjamin West, 1738–1820, American, active in Britain (from 1763)
Title:
The Artist and His Family
Date:
ca. 1772
Medium:
Oil on canvas
Dimensions:
Support (PTG): 20 1/2 x 26 1/4 inches (52.1 x 66.7 cm)
Inscription(s)/Marks/Lettering:

Signed and dated, lower left: "B. West, 1770/72[?]" [mostly illegible]

Credit Line:
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
Copyright Status:
Public Domain
Accession Number:
B1981.25.674
Classification:
Paintings
Collection:
Paintings and Sculpture
Subject Terms:
armchairs | artist | baby | boy | breeches | brother | brown coat | buckles | children | collar | conversation piece | curtains | family | father | group portrait | hat | headpiece | infant | men | mother | painter | palette | portrait | Quakers | ruffle | self-portrait | son | woman
Associated People:
West, Benjamin (1738–1820), American history painter active in Britain
Access:
On view
Curatorial Comment:
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Despite its small size—it measures less than twenty-seven inches across—Benjamin West’s “The Artist and His Family” is a forceful statement of personal and professional ambition. The “neat little scene of domestic happiness,” as it was called by the “Morning Chronicle” (25 April 1777) was probably painted with the express purpose of serving as a modello for an engraving published by Boydell in 1779. Dedicated to Catherine the Great, Empress of Russia, the print—as well as the lofty references to religious art in “The Artist and His Family”—indicates the scope of West’s ambitions to be known internationally as a history and portrait painter through the calling card of this seemingly modest family picture. The painting marks two generative events: the birth of West’s second child and the reunion of the American and British members of the West family. After Benjamin West settled in London, his English-born father, John, returned from America for the first time in nearly fifty years. There, John met his long-lost son Thomas, shown as a man of fifty-six seated next to his white-haired father. This earlier reunion between John and Thomas—both practicing Quakers, as indicated by their costume—is echoed in the 1772 gathering, in which grandfather and uncle call to see the newest member of the West family. Jules Prown has referred to “The Artist and His Family” as “a nativity in Hammersmith,” denoting the sacred aura that infuses this domestic scene, probably painted at the artist’s villa near the Thames in Hammersmith (Prown, 2002, p. 117). Betsy West, cradling her child in her lap, is a secular Madonna, visited by two magi in the forms of John and Thomas West. The artist, dressed in a lavender gown and holding his palette and maulstick as markers of his profession, echoes the marginalized physical placement of Joseph in traditional Nativity scenes.
--Cassandra Albinson,2007-01
Exhibition History:
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Painting in England 1700-1850 - From The Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon (Yale University Art Gallery, 1965-04-15 - 1965-06-20)

American Art and Artifacts - The Interpretation of Objects (Yale University Art Gallery, 1979-09-11 - 1980-01-06)

The Conversation Piece - Arthur Devis & His Contemporaries (Yale Center for British Art, 1980-10-01 - 1980-11-30)

Benjamin West (1738-1820) (The Baltimore Museum of Art, 1989-05-28 - 1989-08-20)

This Other Eden : British Paintings from the Paul Mellon Collection at Yale (Art Gallery of South Australia, 1998-09-16 - 1998-11-15)

This Other Eden : British Paintings from the Paul Mellon Collection at Yale (Queensland Art Gallery, 1998-07-15 - 1998-09-06)

This Other Eden : British Paintings from the Paul Mellon Collection at Yale (Art Gallery of New South Wales, 1998-05-01 - 1998-07-05)

An American's Passion for British Art - Paul Mellon's Legacy (Yale Center for British Art, 2007-04-18 - 2007-07-29)

An American's Passion for British Art - Paul Mellon's Legacy (Royal Academy of Arts, 2007-10-20 - 2008-01-27)

Publications:
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Robert C. Alberts, Benjamin West : A Biography, Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, 1978, p. 397, p. 20 in unnumered plate section between pp. 78 and 79, NJ18 W52 A6 (YCBA)

John Baskett, Paul Mellon's legacy, a passion for British art : masterpieces from the Yale Center for British Art , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 2007, p. 261, no. 43, pl. 43, N5220 M552 P38 2007 OVERSIZE (YCBA)

Rose Clare, Children's clothes since 1750, B.T. Batsford, London, 1989, p. 24, fig. 12, GT1730 R67 1989 (YCBA)

Tom Coates, Creating a self-portrait, Mitchell Beazley, London, 1989, p. 118, N7618 C62 1989 (YCBA)

Ellen G. D'Oench, The Conversation Piece: Arthur Devis & his contemporaries, , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, 1980, pp. 4, 74, cat. no. 60, fig. 20, NJ18 D5151 D64 OVERSIZE

John Dillenberger, Benjamin West : The Context of his Life's Work, with Particular Attention to Paintings with Religious Subject Matter, Including a Correlated Version of Early Nineteenth-Century Lists of West's Paintings, Exhibitions, and Sales Records of his Works..., , Trinity University Press, San Antonio, 1977, pp. 5-6, NJ18 W52 +D55 Oversize (YCBA)

Dr. Kenneth Garlick, The Bicentennial Exhibition at the Royal Academy, Apollo, v. 89, no. 84, February 1969, p. 92, fig. 5, A1 A54 + (YCBA)

Catherine M. Gordon, British paintings Hogarth to Turner, Frederick Warne, London, 1981, p. 70, ND466 G67 (YCBA)

Loyd Grossman, Benjamin West and the struggle to be modern, Merrell, London: New York, 2015, pp. 42, 42-47, 52-53, fig. 21, NJ18.W52 G76 2015 (YCBA)

Charles Robert Leslie, Hand-book for young painters, London, 1870, pp. 294-5, ND1135 L47 1870 (YCBA)

Margaretta M. Lovell, Art in a season of revolution, painters, artisans, and patrons in early America , University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia, Pa., 2005, pp. 141..., pl. VII, N6515 L68 2005 (YCBA)

Julia Marciari-Alexander, This other Eden, paintings from the Yale Center for British Art , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 1998, pp. 10, 11, 60-1, no. 18, fig. 10, ND1314.3 Y36 1998 (YCBA)

R. Melville, Two centuries of summer shows: Exhibition at the Burlington House, Architectural Review, vol. 145, March 1969, p. 195, NA1 A737 OVERSIZE (HAAS)

Lillian B. Miller, The Peale family, creation of a legacy 1770-1870 , Abbeville Press, New York, 1996, p. 45, fig. 16, NJ18 P3 P43 FKZ 0875 1996 OVERSIZE (HAAS)

Charles Franklin Montgomery, American art, 1750-1800, towards independence , Yale University Art Gallery, Boston, MA, 1976, N6507 A54 1976 + (Bass)

National Gallery of Art, Painting in Georgian England from the collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon., National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1970, p. 16, no. 44, ND488 P25 (YCBA)

Alexander Nemerow, The Ashes of Germanicus and the Skin of Painting, Sublimation and Money in Benjamin West's Agrippina , The Yale Journal of Criticism, vol. 11, no. 1, Spring, 1998, p. 13, fig. 2, PN80 Y35 (SML) Also available Online (Orbis)

Jules D. Prown, Art as Evidence : Writings on Art and Material Culture, , Yale University Press, New Haven, CT, 2001, pp. 7, 117-32, pl. 4, fig. 7.1, N6507 P745 2001 (YCBA)

Susan Rather, The American school : artists and status in the late-colonial and early national era, Yale University Press, New Haven, 2016, pp. 120-21, fig. 100, N6507 .R38 2016 (YCBA)

Kate Retford, The art of domestic life, family portraiture in eighteenth-century England , Yale University Press, New Haven, London, 2006, pp. 121, 123, 124-26, fig. 89, ND1313.4 .R48 2006 (YCBA)

Painting in England 1700-1850 from the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon, The Royal Academy of Arts Winter Exhibition 1964-65., , Royal Academy of Arts, London, UK, 1964, p. 40 (v.1), no. 146, pl. 67, ND466 R68 1964/65 (YCBA) Also available on Microfiche: Fiche B214 (YCBA)

Royal Academy of Arts bicentenary exhibition, 1768-1968, catalogue [of an exhibition held on] 14 December 1968-2 March 1969. , Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1968, Fiche # 1, p. 45 ; Fiche # 4, p. 36, no. 50, Illus: p. 36, Fiche B223 (YCBA) YCBA also holds the illustration volume in hard copy: See N6764 .R69 (YCBA)

Exhibition Catalogue. 1777. 9th, Exhibition of the Royal Academy of Arts, no. 9, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1777, p. 27, no. 367, N5054 A53 v. 1:1 (YCBA)

Royal Academy of Arts Bicentenary exhibition, 1768-1968, catalogue [of an exhibition held on] 14 December 1968-2 March 1969. , Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1968, p. 36, N6764 R69 (YCBA) Illustration volume; YCBA does not hold text voukme in hard copy. For Text, see Fiche B223 (YCBA)

David Sox, Quakers and the arts, plain and fancy, an Anglo-American perspective , Sessions Book Trust Friends United Press, York, England Richmond, Ind., 2000, NX180 R4 S67X 2000 (SML)

Ann C. Van Devanter, American self-portraits, 1670-1973, International Exhibitions Foundation, Washington, DC, 1974, pp. 24-5, ND1311 V36 + (LSF)

Painting in England 1700-1850, collection of Mr. & Mrs. Paul Mellon. , Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, VA, 1963, pp. 135 (v. 1), no. 256, ND466 V57 v.1-2 (YCBA)

R. J. B. Walker, Regency portraits, National Portrait Gallery, London, 1985, p. 545 (vol. 1), N1090 A592 (YCBA)

John Wilmerding, In honor of Paul Mellon, collector and benefactor, Essays , National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC & Hanover, NH, 1986, p. 269-86, N7442.2 M455 1986 (YCBA)

Paul Mellon's Legacy, a passion for British art. [large print labels] , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 2007, v. 3, N5220 M552 +P381 2007, Mellon Shelf (YCBA)

Yale University Art Gallery, Painting in England, 1700-1850, from the collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon, [exhibition at] Yale University Art Gallery, April 15-June 20, 1965. , vol. 1, W. Clowes and sons, New Haven, 1965, pp. 57-8 (v.1), no. 216, pl. 67, ND466 Y35 (YCBA)

Helmut von Erffa, The Paintings of Benjamin West, Yale University Press, New Haven, 1986, pp. 32, 403, 428, 431, 450, 461-62, 479, no. 546, NJ18 W52 A12 +E73 Oversize (YCBA)

Link:
https://collections.britishart.yale.edu/catalog/tms:5040
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