The Art of the Sublime

Benjamin West The Bard 1778

Benjamin West 'The Bard' 1778
Full screen
Benjamin West 1738–1820
The Bard 1778
Oil paint on oak
support: 292 x 229 mm; frame: 440 x 370 x 60 mm
Purchased 1974
Tate T01900
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 River Conway beneath. It is one of the earliest literary treatments of passionate and heroic action in a wild, natural setting which links 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.

How to cite

Benjamin West, The Bard 1778, in Nigel Llewellyn and Christine Riding (eds.), The Art of the Sublime, January 2013, https://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/the-sublime/benjamin-west-the-bard-r1105569, accessed 18 December 2014.