‘How to Paint History: Benjamin West and the Death of General Wolfe’, A Talk by Dr Loyd Grossman OBE

October 16, 2015 6:45 pm - 8:30 pm

6pm drinks reception, 6.45pm lecture

David Hume’s triumphant assertion that “This is the historical age and this the historical nation” not only celebrated the commercial success of his History of England – the first volume of which was published in 1755- but also proclaimed that a revolution in history writing had taken place. Hume and Voltaire were the first on the barricades of this revolution, which changed not only how history was written, but also hugely expanded the audience by whom it was read.

Benjamin West’s painting of The Death of General Wolfe, the smash hit of the Royal Academy’s 1771 exhibition, was the first great visual expression of this rise in historical consciousness. In a feat of compositional brilliance, West took the death of General James Wolfe at the moment of victory in the battle of Quebec and used the language of religious imagery to elevate contemporary news to the status of the great events of classical history, mythology, and the Bible. The Death of General Wolfe signalled a revolution in history painting that influenced the work of Gericault, Courbet, Manet, Picasso, Lichtenstein, and others.

In How to Paint History Loyd Grossman will discuss the genesis and influence of West’s most famous picture and explore the personality of the artist who travelled from the backwoods of Pennsylvania to the state rooms of Buckingham Palace and the Presidency of the Royal Academy.

Born in Boston and educated there and at the London School of Economics and Magdalene College, Cambridge, Loyd Grossman is, like West, an Anglo American ‘inbetweener.’ He is Chairman of the Heritage Alliance, Chairman of the Churches Conservation Trust, and Deputy Chairman of the Royal Drawing School.

£10 (£8 Museum members) To register, phone 01225 820866 or use our contact form.

All participants must register to take part in courses, workshops, talks, and some children’s workshops.