Happy Birthday Benjamin West!! Born in America in 1738, West was raised a Quaker in Pennsylvania. He traveled to Italy at age 22 and remained there for 3 years. He had very little formal schooling and could hardly read or write. He settled in England where he was something of a novelty since American painters were somewhat unknown. He devised a new approach to historical scenes, painting classical figures and compositions with contemporary dress. The practice caught on and he became quite popular. He was appointed King George’s official historical painter and was known for his epic historical representations. He helped found the Royal Academy of Arts in 1768 and became the second president 1792-1805. The painting included here is The Death of Nelson, for Horatio Nelson, who had seen a painting earlier commemorating the death of General Wolfe. He expressed his desire to be the subject of such a remembrance and West painted him upon the occasion of his death in the Battle of Trafalgar, in 1806. The rendering is not totally accurate, but an idealization of the event.