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Pair 9: Death of Wolfe/Children’s book

Pair 9: Death of Wolfe/Children’s book

While it is not included in 101 Treasures, Benjamin West’s monumental 1776 painting The Death of General Wolfe could well have been. It has been the visual focal point of the library’s reading room since William Clements acquired it in 1928, and is one of our most recognizable collection items. But what did people in 18th and 19th century America know about Benjamin West? This 1836 children’s book about West’s life sought to convey two key facts about West—that he became a great painter because he worked hard at it, and that he was American, despite spending the last 60 of his 82 years in Europe. Very few American children in the 1830s would have had the opportunity to see this monumental history painting, but they would have known that it existed had they been given this simple chapbook.

Benjamin West, The Death of General Wolfe
Oil on canvas, 1776

[Gerrit Van Husen Forbes], The Life of Benjamin West, the Great American Painter
New York: Mahlon Day, 1836