Larry Silver                                                                   University of Pennsylvania

Volume 5, October 2023

Edgar Wind’s well-established fascination with eighteenth-century English painting chiefly focused
on the heroic portrait tradition around Joshua Reynolds. However, his seminal article about “the
revolution in history painting” engaged with Benjamin West’s innovation: to combine grand
manner history painting with modern events in modern costume, and, as Wind readily recognized,
also with group portraits from the English genre of “conversation pieces.” After his 1770 Death of
General Wolfe, West painted other grand manner modern histories of virtuous deaths, featuring the
Earl of Chatham (1778) and Lord Nelson (1806). But sponsored by King George III, West also
began a massive series of religious pictures for Windsor Castle, proposed for a Chapel of Revealed
Religion, never realized, even after two decades. Despite West’s adherence to religious painting
traditions, Wind neglected this artistic contribution, unusual for this period in England and aware
of Roman heritage. But West’s imagery, especially his depictions of Revelation became increasingly
steeped in contemporary theories of the sublime, evoking both terror and horror of the
Apocalypse, very much at odds with Wind.

Benjamin West; Edgar Wind; Modern/History; Religion


The Edgar Wind Journal 5: 39-59, 2023
DOI: 10.53245/EWJ-000025
Copyright: © 2023 L. Silver. This is an open access, peer-reviewed article published by Bernardino Branca