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(b Springfield [now Swarthmore], nr. Philadelphia, 10 Oct. 1738; d London, 11 Mar. 1820). American history and portrait painter who spent almost all his career in England. After early success as a portraitist in New York, he studied for three years in Italy (1760–3), chiefly in Rome, then settled in London. There he soon repeated the professional and social success he had enjoyed in Italy, helped by his good looks and charm and by the novelty value of his being an American. Initially West had set up as a portraitist in London, but it was as a history painter that he made his mark. In Rome he had been in contact with the circle of Gavin Hamilton and Mengs, and his early work is in a determined but rather flimsy Neoclassical style (Agrippina Landing at Brundisium with the Ashes of Germanicus, 1768, Yale Univ.

Text source: The Oxford Dictionary of Art and Artists (Oxford University Press)

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