Analysis of The Death of General Wolfe by Benjamin West
In 1770, artist Benjamin Wolfe completed what would become his most controversial and talked about piece of artwork, an oil on canvas painting titled The Death of General Wolfe, the purpose of which was to teach a moral lesson. The Death of General Wolfe portrays the Battle of Quebec, but more specifically it details the moment when Major General James Wolfe was on his deathbed shortly after the British had driven the French away in victory. Although this piece is considered to be historical since it details a true event, the details in it prove to be fabricated for the sake of art.
Benjamin West was truly a remarkable artist who required no formal art education to learn how to paint. He taught himself everything using his artistic instincts. West was however, slightly egotistical which is why he had the confidence to break what was the current norm of his time and create The Death of General Wolfe. The reason why this work of art caused such an upheaval and managed to break traditional artistic customs was due to the modern dress of the people in it. Prior to this painting, people were typically painted in antiquity, which despite the historical inaccuracy, means that they wore togas and carried swords, similar to how Ancient Romans dressed. In an effort to be more historically accurate, West chose to use modern dress in his painting, which meant that the men were painted in the actual uniforms they wore. Ironically however, most of the people in the painting were actually away in other parts of the battle when General Wolfe died. So despite the modern dress of the piece, it is still historically inaccurate.
One specific person who was not present when General Wolfe passed away was the Native American. Because Native Americans were regarded as being more in touch with nature than Europeans were, it is speculated that the Native American was put in the piece in order to help General Wolfe’s soul...
Please join StudyMode to read the full document