A.Ham Book Club discussion

Of Arms and Artists: The American Revolution Through Painters' Eyes
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Of Arms & Artists > Chapter 4

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Alexander Hamilton (the_a_dot_ham) | 96 comments Mod
Here is chapter 4 discussion! I could have sworn I posted this last week when it was scheduled, but perhaps in my old age, I'm starting to lose it.

1. Benjamin West's dedication to the American cause is a fascinating one. It is interesting how both Peale and Trumbull (two names we know well), went to England to study under him and Trumbull went as far to risk his life to study with him. For being such a fervent supporter of the American Revolution, it is interesting to see how apolitical West was forced to be and even a propagandist of some sort. Discuss his role as a painter for the Crown.

2. Not only is West in the political closet, he is also almost in a religious closet. Born a Quaker, he would not have approved of the conflict escalating to war & as an American, he supported the American cause over that of the British. Did you find a favorite moment in the chapter where he stepped out of either of these closets?

3. Did you have a favorite line from the chapter? If so, what is it and why?


Alexander Hamilton (the_a_dot_ham) | 96 comments Mod
I'll answer 2 & 3...

2. My favorite story of West is upon encountering Cathcart & King George III over Trumbull's imprisonment, he tries to elude walking into a verbal trap about where his loyalties lie only to have King George save him.

3. The best line is the one obviously about John Adams. "Adams' diplomatic style was litigious and lacking in politesse." It's so very Adams.


Jane (janehex) I finally finished this long chapter! I found the descriptions of the American Revolution as a "family quarrel" very interesting, and I have read that account many times before. It makes sense -- a large percentage of Americans were of English ancestry, and we shared a common language, culture, and religion, in most cases. I wish the author had included that drawing of Martha Washington holding a sword, though. I'm sure it's somewhere online.

Anyway, I will continue catching up!


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Nancy | 41 comments Finally finished Ch 4. It was interesting to see how torn West was between his feelings regarding American liberty and his loyalty as a Royal Court artist. He also had an interesting relationship with King George, having some influence with the King. It explains his loyalty to the King as demonstrated by his decision not to complete the Provisional Treaty portrait. Onto Ch 5!


message 5: by Susan (new)

Susan Scott | 3 comments Alexander wrote: "Here is chapter 4 discussion! I could have sworn I posted this last week when it was scheduled, but perhaps in my old age, I'm starting to lose it.

1. Benjamin West's dedication to the American c..."

I'm very late to the party, having just received the book on Monday, and furiously catching up.

I've always been partial to Benjamin West, since he's a "local boy made good" for me here in Pennsylvania. Until I read this, however, I hadn't realized how closely tied he was to the royal court. I can't think of another American artist who was an official court artist - others who painted royalty, like Thomas Scully and John Singer Sargent - but none who were on the royal payroll. So my favorite sentence: "But after the war, West still was - and he knew it - a court painter, a modern artist who was a throwback to his court ancestors: Charles Le Brun, Diego Velazquez, Guiulo Romano, and Raphael." What an unusual position for an American Quaker!


Jane (janehex) Hi Susan, thank you for joining us!


message 7: by Susan (new)

Susan Scott | 3 comments Alexander wrote: "Here is chapter 4 discussion! I could have sworn I posted this last week when it was scheduled, but perhaps in my old age, I'm starting to lose it.

1. Benjamin West's dedication to the American c..."

This - West having literally to save John Trumbull's neck - was my favorite anecdote, too. Clearly Trumbull was one more impulsive young man with perhaps more patriotism than common sense. Of course he was yet another of Washington's aides-de-camp who'd parted ways with the General's Family because he thought he knew better than those older and wiser. (Burr, Laurens, and of course Hamilton - oh, those "bros"-de-camp!) He's very fortunate that he had West willing to risk his own reputation for his sake.


message 8: by Susan (new)

Susan Scott | 3 comments Susan wrote: "Alexander wrote: "Here is chapter 4 discussion! I could have sworn I posted this last week when it was scheduled, but perhaps in my old age, I'm starting to lose it.

1. Benjamin West's dedication..."
Thanks, Jane. There was no way I could resist this book!


Alexander Hamilton (the_a_dot_ham) | 96 comments Mod
"... 'bros'-de-camp'..."

Ha! Susan, that's a great way to explain them.


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