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View of Snow Hill, Windsor Great Park
Benjamin West, 1799
The Victoria & Albert Museum
Benjamin West (1738-1820) is notable as the first American-born artist to gain international renown. He famously was appointed as Historical Painter to King George III and was granted the position of the second President of the Royal Academy.
West was decidedly ambitious and, in many ways, ruthless in his pursuit of prestige. Later in life, both he and his work became affected by a melodramatic grandiosity which was both charming and repulsive.
Upon his death, he left behind a legacy of nearly 750 paintings of which only about thirty were landscapes. Therefore, this canvas from 1799 is particularly special. Entitled, “A View of Snow Hill, Windsor Great Park” depicts West himself, at the left, sketching. He is joined by his friend and companion, James Dyer, a former soldier in the Horse Guards who would later become a life model at the Royal Academy Schools. Furthermore, Dyer served as West's valet for fifty years. This painting is one of a group of seven views in and around Windsor which were created by West. West rented a house in Windsor, circa 1780, in large part because he had been commissioned for a series of paintings in the Royal Chapel in Windsor Castle.