On September 13, 1759, during the Seven Years’ War (1756-63) [known in the United States as the French and Indian War], the British General James Wolfe achieved a dramatic victory; Wolfe was fatally wounded during the battle, but his victory ensured British supremacy in Canada.
Extremely popular among the 18th-century British aristocracy and royalty, Benjamin West’s work is primarily composed of commissioned portraits and history paintings. West is best known for his 1770 painting The Death of General Wolfe, which caused a stir when it was displayed at the Royal Academy because the figures were shown wearing contemporary clothing rather than classical garb.
Besides the original, at least four other additional versions of The Death of General Wolfe were also produced by West. The primary copy of The Death of General Wolfe is currently in the collection of the National Gallery of Canada, with further examples at the Royal Ontario Museum (Canadiana art collection), as well as the University of Michigan Museum of Art. The fourth copy produced resides at Ickworth House, Suffolk, England. Each reproduction had its own variation in the depiction of Wolfe’s death. A fifth autograph copy was commissioned by George III in 1771 and is still in the Royal Collection.
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