Benjamin West

The Death of General Wolfe

1770
Wolfe died in the battle to conquer Quebec in 1759, an event that still resonated years later when West painted this work, which became its defining image. The figures gathered around Wolfe include portraits of fellow officers and representative types – enlisted soldiers, a settler dressed in green, and an Indigenous warrior. Pose, gesture and expression – ranging from stoic reserve to tears – eloquently tell the story. Unusually, West added carefully observed details of contemporary clothing and weaponry to anchor the scene in reality, and so connect to his audience. His goal was to persuade them – not of the literal truth of his painting, but to move viewers to emulate Wolfe’s self-sacrifice. The canvas made the artist’s reputation. Frame: carved and gilded pine. Great Britain, c. 1775–1800 Purchased with the generous support of the Members of the National Gallery of Canada and an anonymous donor.
Title
The Death of General Wolfe
Date
1770
Medium
Painting
Materials
oil on canvas
Dimensions
152.6 x 214.5 cm
Nationality
American; British
Credit line
Gift of the 2nd Duke of Westminster to the Canadian War Memorials, 1918; Transfer from the Canadian War Memorials, 1921
Accession number
8007