Raphael West and Benjamin West Jr., Sons of the Artist, ca. 1796
Oil on canvas
Pennsylvania native Benjamin West was elected in 1792 as president of the prestigious Royal Academy in London, where he had been a resident since 1763. Although the artist's fame depended on history paintings, he painted numerous portraits of his family, including three of his two sons, Raphael and Benjamin, Jr., together. Here the artist's sons appear as sober young men. Even so, their mutual affection is apparent in their relaxed, intertwined pose. The dark shadows and moonlight in the background add a melancholic mood typical of the Romantic sensibility that was gaining popularity in the late 18th century. Both of West's sons worked in their father's studio. Neither man, however, had substantial success as an artist.