WEST Benjamin - Autograph Letter Signed 1818 about a painting
Benjamin WEST (1738-1820)
Autograph Letter Signed (“Benjamin West”) to Clio Rickman sending him cards to view his picture Death on the Pale Horse.1 page 4to, n.p., 19 March 1818.
American-born Benjamin West settled in London at the age of 25, where he obtained commissions for religious paintings for the chapel at Windsor (which were never installed) as well as for a series of pictures based on the Book of Revelation destined for William Beckford’s Fonthill Abbey (which were, again, never completed).
Despite the royal patronage, West appears to have become friendly with Thomas Rickman, known as Clio, who had dangerous radical connections. A bookseller and long-time friend of Thomas Paine, Rickman published his satirical verses in the weekly journal, Black Dwarf. Paine’s Rights of Man was completed while lodging with Rickman and his family, and in 1819 Rickman published his Life of Paine.
The same apparent contradiction can be found in West, the artist who painted a spectacular picture of The Death of Nelson whilst also reserving some admiration for Napoleon. In 1802, at the peace of Amiens, he was among those artistic and fashionable figures who rushed to Paris to discover the latest in French taste.
“It is with pleasure I meet your request, for Self and Family to Freely see my Picture of Death on the Pale Horse with others of my Pictures now exhibited at 125 Pall Mall, and also those in my Gallery No. 14 Newmen (sic) Street Oxford Street: for which I request you and Family will accept the two enclosed cards for that purpose, in eny (sic) day and hour between a 11- and 5 oclock most convenient to you and some of your “Tribe” as you denominate them. My attendene (sic) in Pall Mall, on presenting to them the card – of Death on the Pale Horse will meet your request – as will also my servents at my House in Newmen Street. With great respect, and with thanks for the Present of your elegent translation of Voltaires ninth canto of Henried – and the Fragment by Clio Rickmen – as will as that I am . . .”
The final version of the picture which West is here inviting Rickman to view is now in the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.
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