Enfilade

New Book | Benjamin West and the Struggle to be Modern

Posted in books by Editor on February 28, 2016

From Merrell:

Loyd Grossman, Benjamin West and the Struggle to be Modern (London, Merrell, 2015), 256 pages, ISBN: 978-1858946412, £35 / $60.

9781858946412At the time of his death in 1820, Benjamin West was the most famous artist in the English-speaking world and celebrated throughout Europe. From humble beginnings in Pennsylvania, he had become the first American artist to study in Italy, and within a few short years of his arrival in London had been instrumental in the foundation of the Royal Academy of Arts and been appointed history painter to King George III. However, West’s posthumous reputation took a critical mauling, and today he remains one of the most neglected and misunderstood of Britain’s great 18th-century artists. As Loyd Grossman asserts in his new book, West was in the vanguard that created neoclassicism and romanticism, and among the first painters to represent the exciting and inspirational qualities of contemporary events, as opposed to events from the biblical, classical or mythological past. Most significantly, his best-known painting, The Death of General Wolfe, was a thrilling, revolutionary work that played a role in changing the course of art. In a lively, immersing text that situates West in the midst of Enlightenment thinking about history and progress, Grossman explores both why Wolfe has exercised such a magnetic grip on our imaginations for almost 250 years, and how, with this artwork, West helped to lay the foundations of a modern attitude that has affected the way we live and think ever since.

Loyd Grossman is a broadcaster, historian and journalist. He has presented a wide range of TV programmes, from Through the Keyhole and MasterChef to Loyd on Location and History of British Sculpture. Born in Massachusetts, Grossman has been based in the UK since 1975. He is involved with many charities supporting the arts, heritage and education in the UK. He is Chairman of the Heritage Alliance, Chairman of the Churches Conservation Trust and President of the National Association of Decorative and Fine Arts Societies (NADFAS). He was appointed OBE in 2003 and was awarded a Doctor of Letters degree in 2007 by the University of Chester in recognition of his heritage work. In January 2011 the University of Lincoln awarded him an honorary Doctor of Arts degree in recognition of his contribution to the cultural heritage sector. Grossman has a particular interest in eighteenth-century British art and architecture.

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