Benjamin West was a British and American painter of historical pictures around the time of the American War of Independence, the president of the Royal Academy in London and the first American artist to achieve an international reputation. When West visited England in 1763, his paintings caused a sensation. He soon became England's leading neoclassical painter. In 1771, defying precedent, he depicted recent history in modern dress rather than in ancient costume in a painting widely regarded as a miracle. King George III immediately named him the royal history painter.
West deeply influenced American painting and was teacher of three generations of his countrymen. Many American artists studied under him in London, including Augustus Earle, Ralph Earl, Samuel Morse, Charles Willson Peale, Rembrandt Peale, Matthew Pratt, Gilbert Stuart, John Trumbull, and Thomas Sully.