The Death of General Wolfe

The Death of General Wolfe
The Death of General Wolfe
Artist Benjamin West
Year 1770
Type Oil on canvas
Dimensions 151 cm × 213 cm (59 in × 84 in)
Location National Gallery of Canada,

The Death of General Wolfe is a well-known 1770 painting by Anglo-American artist Benjamin West depicting the death of British General James Wolfe during the 1759 Battle of Quebec of the Seven Years' War. It is an oil on canvas of the Enlightenment period. West made an additional and nearly identical painting of the same scene for King George III in 1771.[1]



West depicts General Wolfe as a Christ-like figure. This painting has a triangular composition, made by the top of the flag (as the apex) and the positions of the men. It resembles Christian "Lamentation" scenes, where Christ is held in the embrace of the Virgin Mary.[citation needed]

The depiction of the Native American warrior in the painting — kneeling with his chin on his fist, looking at General Wolfe — has been analyzed in various ways. In art, the touching of one's face with one's hand is a sign of deep thought and intelligence (thus Rodin's The Thinker). Some consider it an idealization inspired by the noble savage concept (Fryd, 75).

On the ground in front of Wolfe is his musket, his cartridge box, and bayonet. Wolfe went into battle armed as his men were, although his musket was of higher quality. His dress is also of note. He is wearing a fairly simple red coat, a red waistcoat, red breeches, and a white shirt. Such dress was rather simple, especially for a commanding officer.

In the background, and to the Left of the men surrounding Wolfe, an approaching runner is depicted. He is waving his hat in one hand to attract their attention, and with the other hand carries a captured flag with the Fleur-de-lis (a symbol of France) - symbolic of the news relayed to the dying Wolfe that the French were being defeated.

The inclusion of Simon Fraser, Lieutenant Colonel of the 78th Fraser Highlanders (behind the Rogers Ranger, who is wearing green) is interesting, as General Wolfe had always spoken highly of Fraser's regiment, yet Fraser was not at the battle, as he was recovering from wounds received earlier. In the painting, Fraser wears the Fraser tartan, which was probably worn by officers in that regiment. All in all only four of the fourteen men depicted were actually at the battleground.

The clothing West depicted in this scene was highly controversial at the time. Although the event was relatively recent—only eleven years prior—its subject matter made it a fitting example of the genre of history painting, for which contemporary dress was unsuitable. During the painting, several influential people, including Sir Joshua Reynolds, instructed him to dress the figures in classical attire, and after its completion, George III refused to purchase it because the clothing compromised the dignity of the event. The work, however, eventually overcame all objections and helped inaugurate more historically accurate practice in history painting.

William Woollett's engraving was the best known copy of West's original and became popular around the world [2]

The Death of General Wolfe is currently in the collection of the National Gallery of Canada, the Royal Ontario Museum, as well as the Clements Library at the University of Michigan. There are five known portraits by the author. Wolfe's death and the portrayal of that event by Benjamin West make up half of Simon Schama's historical work Dead Certainties: Unwarranted Speculations (1991).

See also

  • Great Britain in the Seven Years War


  1. ^ Montagna, 80.
  2. ^ New Brunswick Museum


  • Ayers, William, ed., Picturing History: American Painting 1770-1903, ISBN 0-8478-1745-8
  • Fryd, Vivien Green. "Rereading the Indian in Benjamin West's 'Death of General Wolfe.'" American Art, Vol. 9, No. 1. (Spring, 1995), pp. 72–85. Online document from Jstor
  • Montagna, Dennis. "Benjamin West's The Death of General Wolfe: A Nationalist Narrative", American Art Journal (Volume 13, Number 2, 1981): 72–88.

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Игры ⚽ Поможем решить контрольную работу

Look at other dictionaries:

  • The Death of Nelson, 21 October 1805 — Infobox Painting| painting alignment= image size=350px title=The Death of Nelson, 21 October 1805 artist=Arthur William Devis year=1807 type=Oil on canvas height=19.56 width=26.16 height inch= width inch = diameter cm = diameter inch =… …   Wikipedia

  • La Mort du général Wolfe — Artiste Benjamin West Année 1771 Type Huile sur toile Dimensions (H × L) …   Wikipédia en Français

  • La mort du Général Wolfe — Benjamin West, 1771 Huile sur toile 151 × 213 cm …   Wikipédia en Français

  • James Wolfe — General James Wolfe (2 January, 1727 ndash; 13 September, 1759) was a British Army officer, known for his training reforms but remembered chiefly for his victory over the French in Canada and establishing British rule there. Because of this he… …   Wikipedia

  • Battle of the Plains of Abraham — Infobox Military Conflict conflict=Battle of the Plains of Abraham partof=the Seven Years War French and Indian War caption= The Death of General Wolfe by Benjamin West. Oil on canvas, 1770. date=13 September 1759 place=Quebec City… …   Wikipedia

  • The Fabulous Moolah — in April 2001 Ring name(s) The Fabulous Moolah[1] Slave Girl Moolah[1] The Spider …   Wikipedia

  • The Book of the Short Sun — is a trilogy by Gene Wolfe, comprising On Blue s Waters (1999), In Green s Jungles (2000), and Return to the Whorl (2001). It is the sequel to Wolfe s tetralogy The Book of the Long Sun, and has connections to The Book of the New Sun.… …   Wikipedia

  • The United States of America —     The United States of America     † Catholic Encyclopedia ► The United States of America     BOUNDARIES AND AREA     On the east the boundary is formed by the St. Croix River and an arbitrary line to the St. John, and on the north by the… …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • The Count of Monte Cristo —   …   Wikipedia

  • The Counter-Reformation —     The Counter Reformation     † Catholic Encyclopedia ► The Counter Reformation     The subject will be considered under the following heads:     I. Significance of the term II. Low ebb of Catholic fortunes III. St. Ignatius and the Jesuits,… …   Catholic encyclopedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”