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The Death of General Wolfe

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The Death of General Wolfe

- Heroism and Nation

Yu Su
211553930 VISA 1900 A
Karen S Stanworth
Tutorial 16
Olena Korolevych

Benjamin West’s work “The Death of General Wolfe” is an historical oil painting, that reappearance the death of British general James Wolfe in the Battle of Quebec, this is a description of “heroic behaviour” of General Wolfe to snatch loose to victory in the attack. The painting express the heroism of Wolfe and the cruelty and bloody colonial war between nations.

The work has spawned countless copies since original one painted in 1771, but there are only five large version painted by Benjamin West’s own hand, the one located in Royal Ontario Museum is the last version painted. [[1]]

The painting contain a historical event in the back, the main character James Wolfe was a Marine officer in the beginning of the colonial war, but after he victory many battels, he was promoted to a general of the Quebec war in 1759. [[2]] His main enemy is the French army who occupied Cape Breton Island. Wolfe’s army meet a defeat from French army, during the battle, Wolfe had been wounded three times, but he did not leave and continue command his army, he was dead until the city was overcome. [[3]] Wolfe was a hero, because he died for the country, for protect the land, the island might belong to French without him. He sacrifice his life for the army. Wolfe was responsible, he did not left his army after he got hurt, that is not easy to do for a normal person, this action evidence his great character and selflessness sacrifice as a hero. [[4]]

This painting is a two dimensional perspective. The various shape triangle plays in this painting, from the large triangle incomposite with all the figures that make the possible by the rise flag to the various sub triangles that organized officer in the attendance surrounding and drawing attention to the dying General. The entire composition depends on these triangles to give a structure to move your eyes around the painting and create drama focus. [[5]]

There are numbers of officers around the half lay down Wolfe, few of them escorted his shot body, Wolfe’s gun and hat have been thrown on the ground. Someone was holding a rolled up British Union Jack behind the back of Wolfe. The kind of composition set off the heroic “martyrdom”of General Wolfe. [[6]] The distant was filled with the war flame, a red light and dark cloud on the horizon. The composition is symmetrical, balanced on both side of characters in the painting. Wolfe’s painful face and dying body make the viewer feels the death and stand out as the main theme. [[7]] The tragedy feeling was all over the painting, that makes viewer think of the reason caused this death ---- the war. The death and blood was almost the representative word for the war, in this case, Wolfe’s death was sadness, he was a hero, he fight for the country, he was selflessness to sacrifice for his nation, he should not be died, but in the war, that is unavoidable. This is sadness and feels the merciless of the war.

On the left side of the painting, an American Indian work as spy for the army was in front of officers. He is obvious in those officers, based on his dressing and position in the painting. He dressed differently then all the soldiers, and looking straight directly to Wolfe, he was in front of all the other officers on the left, that makes the scenes contains Americas characteristics.[[8]] He is noticeable and even could be count as the second main character in the painting. In the colonial war, numbers of Indian participated war as spy or soldier for different country, they are fighting and kill each other for the army they joined. [[9]] Europeans occupied Indians homeland in North America through cruelly war, that they become a almost “disappear” race. [[10]] The Indian in the painting was a reflection of this, he was the epitome of the Indian nation in the colonial period. His obvious position make the viewer notice and think of invade of land and destruction that war brings to us.

As a historical painting, the colonial war that Benjamin West expressed was a kind of invasion, that caused painting makes a widespread controversy. The western art historian do not want to admit it was valuable for British history painting. [[11]] Only few theorists has the opposite attitude, they thought is was the historical fact of the period of British colonial war and contain the cruelly of the British capitalism. [[12]] West as a historical painter, he left the truly painting for us, it was the art of recording history. West record the war in the point of view of praise the heroism of General Wolfe. [[13]] It was interesting to think of the historian’s opinion that they do not want to admit it, that Wolfe sacrificed his life but the British history do not thank for it. He protect the land, but the land is invade from the Indians. Is he still a hero? Or did he fight for the right side? The answer is yes, in his mind, he was protect his country, he was execute order as a soldier, he was doing the thing in his responsibility, he was not wrong. It was the British government’s fault to invasion Indian’s land, it was the capitalism’s response for the war, but this was the history, we can not say either is bad or not. [[14]]
In this case, General Wolfe was certainly a hero. The whole painting prominent Wolfe’s sacrifice for the army, country and nations. His dying body and painful face movement represent the bloody and cruelly war in that period.

Bibliography

WEBSTER, John Clarence, and James WOLFE. Wolfe and the Artists. A study of his portraiture. XXIX. Ryerson Press: Toronto, 1930. Print.

McNairn, Alan. Behold the hero General Wolfe and the arts in the eighteenth century. Montreal [Que.: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1997. Print.

Cartwright, Derrick R., and Benjamin West. Benjamin West: allegory and allegiance. San Diego, Calif.: Timken Museum of Art, 2004. Print.

Abrams, Ann Uhry. The valiant hero: Benjamin West and grand-style history painting. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1985. Print.

Erffa, Helmut von, and Allen Staley.The paintings of Benjamin West. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1986. Print.

Garrett, Richard. General Wolfe. London: Barker, 1975. Print.

7. Lenman, Bruce. Britain's colonial wars, 1688-1783. Harlow, England: Longman, 2001. Print.

8. "Sigmund Samuel Gallery of Canada | Level 1 | Royal Ontario Museum."Welcome to Royal Ontario Museum | Royal Ontario Museum. N.p., n.d. Fri. 9 Nov. 2012.

.

9. Hill, Richard . "Art speak." Lecture Audio. Richard Hill. York University, Toronto. 12 Sept. 2012. Lecture.

-----------------------
[1] "Sigmund Samuel Gallery of Canada | Level 1 | Royal Ontario Museum."Welcome to Royal Ontario Museum | Royal Ontario Museum. N.p., n.d. Fri. 9 Nov. 2012. http://www.rom.on.ca/en/exhibitions-galleries/galleries/world-cultures/sigmund-samuel-gallery-canada. [2] Garrett, Richard. General Wolfe. London: Barker, 1975. Print. P 147
[3] Garrett, Richard. General Wolfe. London: Barker, 1975. Print. P 166
[4] Abrams, Ann Uhry. The valiant hero: Benjamin West and grand-style history painting. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1985. Print. P 78
[5] Hill, Richard . "Art speak." Lecture Audio. Richard Hill. York University, Toronto. 12 Sept. 2012. Lecture.
[6] WEBSTER, John Clarence, and James WOLFE. Wolfe and the Artists. A study of his portraiture. XXIX. Ryerson Press: Toronto, 1930. Print. P 52
[7] Cartwright, Derrick R., and Benjamin West. Benjamin West: allegory and allegiance. San Diego, Calif.: Timken Museum of Art, 2004. Print. P 17
[8] Erffa, Helmut von, and Allen Staley.The paintings of Benjamin West. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1986. Print. P 94
[9] Lenman, Bruce. Britain's colonial wars, 1688-1783. Harlow, England: Longman, 2001. Print. P115
[10] Lenman, Bruce. Britain's colonial wars, 1688-1783. Harlow, England: Longman, 2001. Print. P121
[11] McNairn, Alan. Behold the hero General Wolfe and the arts in the eighteenth century. Montreal [Que.: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1997. Print. P128
[12] McNairn, Alan. Behold the hero General Wolfe and the arts in the eighteenth century. Montreal [Que.: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1997. Print. P132
[13] Erffa, Helmut von, and Allen Staley.The paintings of Benjamin West. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1986. Print. P154
[14] McNairn, Alan. Behold the hero General Wolfe and the arts in the eighteenth century. Montreal [Que.: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1997. Print. P241…...

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