British Artillerymen Pulling a Gun


This unfinished ink sketch by Benjamin West (1738-1820) shows British artillerymen from the Napoleonic Wars straining at a rope to drag a canon. The tenth child of a Pennsylvania innkeeper, West became one of the foremost artists of his day, despite having had very little formal education. In 1763, he moved to London, where he became a co-founder of the Royal Academy of Arts. He was a close friend of Benjamin Franklin, and was commissioned by King George III to paint portraits of the royal family. West later became the official historical painter to the court. He is best known for his large-scale paintings of historical scenes as well as for his portraits. The sketch is from the Anne S.K. Brown Military Collection at the Brown University Library, the foremost American collection devoted to the history and iconography of soldiers and soldiering, and one of the world’s largest collections devoted to the study of military and naval uniforms.

Last updated: September 25, 2015