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Self-Portrait

1819 Benjamin West Born: Springfield, Pennsylvania 1738 Died: London, England 1820 oil on paperboard 32 3/8 x 25 5/8 in. (82.2 x 65.0 cm.) Smithsonian American Art Museum Transfer from the U.S. Capitol 1917.2.3 Smithsonian American Art Museum
2nd Floor, South Wing


Gallery Label

Six months before he died, West looked unflinchingly into the mirror to paint his self-portrait. He holds a drawing pencil and wears a painter's robe and beaver hat, which identify him as a founder and president of the Royal Academy of Art. The light is strongest on his face and hands, but the rest of the picture falls into shadow, as if he foresaw his own end. West was official painter to the King of England and the first American artist to gain an international reputation. His example led generations of American artists to measure their art and professional identities by European standards.

Exhibition Label, Smithsonian American Art Museum, 2006

Keywords

Dress - accessory - hat

Object - art tool

Occupation - art - painter

Portrait male - West, Benjamin - self-portrait

Portrait male - West, Benjamin - waist length

painting

paint - oil

paperboard