The Wolfe Man: Benjamin West's Anglo-American Accent

Sarah Monks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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Abstract

Rejecting the polarizing conceptions of loyalism and rebellion with which American colonial sentiment has conventionally been described, this article sets out to return to Benjamin West his status as ‘Anglo-American’ and to suggest some of the ways in which his work registers the meanings of that term as Britain and America separated politically. For many who were both pro-colonial and pro-American, ‘Anglo-American’ relations were to be modelled on forms of erotic, romantic and maternal love, of the kind which West repeatedly depicted in sentimental mythological and history images. Reading these works alongside West’s colonial origins, his reception in London and the changing shape of transatlantic affairs, this article argues that West’s images speak of the colonial embrace subtly, equivocally and in accented form. As the concluding analysis suggests, however, the sheer mutability, artificiality and ambivalence of West’s art may provide its most significant content.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)652-673
Number of pages22
JournalArt History
Volume34
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2011

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