Benjamin West
The Bard 1778

Artwork details

Benjamin West 1738–1820
The Bard
Date 1778
Medium Oil paint on oak
Dimensions Support: 292 x 229 mm
frame: 440 x 370 x 60 mm
Acquisition Purchased 1974
Not on display

Display caption

Thomas Gray's poem ‘The Bard’, published in 1757, was based on the now-discredited tradition that Edward I ordered the massacre of the Welsh bards; Gray describes how the sole surviving bard stood on Snowdon and cursed king Edward before throwing himself into the Conway river beneath. It is one of the earliest literary treatments of passionate and heroic action in a wild natural setting which link the sublime with the Romantic movement. It inspired many artists, including Benjamin West, de Loutherbourg, Blake, Fuseli, Turner, and John Martin. Here, the bard holds a harp, associated with the bardic tradition and a symbol of Wales.

March 2010

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