Art of the Week

Richard Westall (1765-1836)
Pocahontas Pleading for the Life of Captain John Smith, 1820-40
Oil on canvas, 45 x 55 cm.
Gift of Arthur S. Olick P’83

Richard Westall was the more successful of two half-brothers (both sons of a Benjamin Westall, from Norwich), who each became painters. His younger half-brother was William Westall (1781-1850), a much-travelled landscape painter. Born in Hertford, Richard Westall was apprenticed to a heraldic silver engraver in London in 1779 before studying at the Royal Academy School of Art in 1785. He exhibited at the Academy regularly between 1784 and 1836, became an Associate in 1792 and was elected an Academician in 1794. His works, including watercolors, encompassed portraits (Queen Victoria, Lord Byron and Richard Ayton) and many historical subjects of a neo-classical nature (e.g.: Shakespearean scenes), and he was a successful illustrator of books (including an edition of the Bible and of John Milton’s poems), working for the noted publisher John Boydell. He also served as drawing master to Princess, later Queen Victoria between 1827 and his death in 1836.

Pocahontas (born Matoaka, and later known as Rebecca Rolfe, c. 1595 – 1617) was a Native American of Virginia notable for her association with the colonial settlement at Jamestown. Pocahontas was the daughter of Powhatan, the paramount chief of a network of tributary tribal nations in the Tidewater region of Virginia. In a well-known historical anecdote, she is said to have saved the life of a captive, John Smith, in 1607 by placing her head upon his own when her father raised his war club to execute him.

“Queen Victoria as an artist, and her teachers”. By: Millar, Delia. Drawing, March/April 1988, Vol. 9, p126-130, 5p

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