Death of General Wolfe Essay

757 Words May 5th, 2011 4 Pages
Analysis of The Death of General Wolfe by Benjamin West

In 1770, artist Benjamin Wolfe completed what would become his most controversial and talked about piece of artwork, an oil on canvas painting titled The Death of General Wolfe, the purpose of which was to teach a moral lesson. The Death of General Wolfe portrays the Battle of Quebec, but more specifically it details the moment when Major General James Wolfe was on his deathbed shortly after the British had driven the French away in victory. Although this piece is considered to be historical since it details a true event, the details in it prove to be fabricated for the sake of art. Benjamin West was truly a remarkable artist who required no formal art education to learn how to
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The fact that the clouds are passing by and opening can represent two things. The first is that it can be a symbol of General Wolfe, and as the clouds pass over head, his soul will similarly pass over and die. Second is that the passing clouds can be viewed as a sign of hope that the battle is now over and people can live peacefully. One other piece of symbolism is the flag behind General Wolfe, which serves as a directional force. Since it is pointed at both General Wolfe and the sky, it signifies the fact that Wolfe’s soul will go up onto Heaven. The colors in this piece are instrumental in moving the eye across the piece and drawing attention to specific parts of the piece. For instance, for the most part, the colors that are used are dark. However, to emphasize General Wolfe, the focal point in the middle, his outfit is painted in a brighter red and yellow and the ground beneath him is light as well. Also, in order to allow the eye to glide across the painting almost all of the soldier’s uniforms are red, creating rhythm. One solider, who is apparently rushing into see Wolfe, is painted in green, which is the complimentary color to red. The use of complimentary colors brings the eyes attention to the panicked solider, emphasizing the overall sense of urgency in the piece. The piece is also well balanced and uses appropriate scales and proportions. Overall I think West was successful in his piece. I admire the
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