George Romney’s Death of General Wolfe
George Romney (1734–1802) became famous as a portrait artist but also aspired to history painting throughout his career. In 1760 he exhibited the first painting to commemorate the death of General James Wolfe, who had died the previous year during the battle for Quebec. It was also the first history painting – if we understand by this term the dramatic depiction of a heroic action – to dare to depict its subject in modern dress. The object of considerable controversy, it nevertheless gained a special premium and was bought by a prominent collector. It also set a precedent for following treatments of its subject by Edward Penny, Benjamin West, and James Barry. It was taken to India by a subsequent owner, and its location is now unknown. Using Romney’s sketches and contemporary descriptions as a basis, in this paper I reconstruct the appearance of this painting and discuss its importance in the history of British art.
Copyright: The authors and Aarhus University Press