Celebrating Father’s Day with Benjamin West

My mother’s kiss made me a painter.” Benjamin West

Benjamin West (1738 – 1820) lived during an era of great change – in the time of the American War of Independence and the Seven Year’s War. Born in Pennsylvania, the tenth child of an innkeeper and his wife, Benjamin was destined to become known as the “American Raphael,” following in the footsteps of Sir Joshua Reynolds as the second, and longest-serving president of the Royal Academy in London.

Benjamin painted this father-son portrait in 1773, when his first son, Raphael, was six or seven years old. It was a painting that he kept until the end of his life.

There is a joyful connection in the familiar scene of a son watching his father paint, a confirmation that family was a priority. Perhaps Benjamin was thinking back to his own childhood, when he painted his first portrait of his sister, Sally. When his mother discovered the painting she kissed him and said: “Why it’s Sally.” He was later quoted as saying. “My mother’s kiss made me a painter.”

Happy Father’s Day!

8 Comments

  1. Ms Frances

    Thank you for sharing this happy post. I love the painting you have included! What a masterpiece! It brings such a great feeling of the love that exists between father and his children. I find it interesting that painters can bring feelings of joy and love in the colors and facial expressions of their subjects.

    1. Clanmother

      Very well said: “painters can bring feelings of joy and love.” I wondered about the name of his son, “Raphael.” In 1760, Benjamin travelled to Italy (aka The Italian Grand Tour) and was able to expand his repertoire by copying works of Italian painters such as Titian and Raphael. I have a feeling that Raphael came form Benjamin’s appreciation of Raphael’s work. And here is another study that I’m interested in pursuing. In our reality, we are concerned about plagiarism, stealing ideas. But in the past, the idea of copying etc seemed to be more of a collaboration, a way to explore new ideas and reflect upon techniques from the past. I continue to learn…

    1. Clanmother

      Ein faszinierender Künstler. Benjamin West hatte wenig Bildung und verfügte nicht über persönliche finanzielle Mittel. Selbst als er Präsident der Akademie wurde, hatte er Probleme mit seiner Rechtschreibung. Aber die Leute erkannten sein Genie und unterstützten seine Bemühungen finanziell, sogar König George III.

    1. Clanmother

      So glad you stopped by! I have seen this painting before, but never knew the story behind it. What is amazing – Benjamin West had limited schooling. Even as the president of a prestigious institution, he had trouble with his spelling. Genius is genius…

You're welcome to join the dialogue!

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.