“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.”