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Today's Featured Biography

Benjamin West

      In the wilds of the new world, a century and a half ago, there was, apparently, no spot less likely to produce a famous painter than the Quaker province of Pennsylvania. And yet, when George Washington was only six years old there was born, in the little town of Springfield, Chester County, a boy whose interesting and remarkable career from infancy to old age has provided one of the most instructive lessons for students in art that America affords.

      Perhaps Benjamin West's aptitude for picture-making in his infancy, while he was learning to walk and to talk, did not exceed that of hosts of other children, in like circumstances, in every generation since his time. But many curious things were remembered and told of this baby's performances after he had developed a decided talent for reproducing the beautiful objects that captivated his eye. It was in the summer of 1745, a few months before he was seven years old that his married sister came home for a visit, bringing with her an infant daughter. The next morning after her arrival, little Benjamin was left to keep the flies off the sleeping baby, while his mother and sister went to the garden for flowers. The baby smiled in its sleep, and the boy was captivated. He must catch that smile and keep it. He found some paper on the table, scrambled for a pen, and with red and black ink made a hasty but striking picture of the little beauty. He heard his mother returning, and conscious of having been in mischief, tried to conceal hi...

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