Thursday, February 6, 2014

Painting of the Day: Augustus, Duke of Sussex, 1780

Prince Augustus
Benjamin West, 1780
Crown Copyright
The Royal Collection
Image Courtesy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

From 1780, we have Augustus, Duke of Sussex as painted by Benjamin West (1738-1820). This is one of several paintings by West added to the Royal Collection by Queen Mary (1867-1953).

West came to England from Italy in 1763 and became part of the movement to create a national school of history painting—a goal supported by King George III. George III awarded West his patronage and West found himself closely associated with the newly founded Royal Academy in 1768. There, he was one of the first artists to exhibit.

By 1772, West was considered to be the “Historical Painter to the King,” and was paid an annual stipend by the Crown. As part of his commission, he offered artistic instruction to the princesses. In 1791, West succeeded Richard Dalton as Surveyor of the King’s Pictures. Though dated 1780, the portrait that we see above was not exhibited at the Royal Academy until 1782. While the painting of Prince Augustus in front of a view of Windsor was commissioned by Queen Charlotte, at some point, it left the Royal Collection only to be returned in 1934 when Queen Mary purchased it. 

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