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Sir Jeffrey Amherst (1717-1797)Enlarge image

Sir Jeffrey Amherst (1717-1797), 1768

Joshua Reynolds
British, 1723 - 1792
oil on canvas
74 x 62.2 cm
Transfer from the Canadian War Memorials, 1921
National Gallery of Canada (no. 8004)

Amherst commanded British forces in North America during the Seven Years War - a decisive period in the history of the continent for both colonists and Indigenous peoples. In 1758 he led the expedition to conquer the French fort of Louisbourg, the event commemorated in this painting (the paper he holds refers to its surrender). Two years later he captured Montreal, ending French rule in Canada. He would later attempt to brutally suppress First Nations' resistance to British rule. Typical of Reynolds' more informal portraits, the subject is treated almost casually, the composition simple, the man at ease with his achievements and honours. The cloudy sky adds a note of grandeur, dignifying the sitter.

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