The American School by Matthew Pratt

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�PAGE � �PAGE �1� Scheiner

Christopher Scheiner


American Studies

"The American School" by Matthew Pratt, is an oil-on-canvas portrait made in 1765 which illustrates a conventional day in the studio of Benjamin West. The painting is strikingly detailed and scenic with contrasting colors and was my personal favorite in the exhibit. The painting portrays the American character as creative, independent, and comfortable in an artistic environment. This is clearly proven through their obvious devotion to the portrait. It is believed that West is the dark figure in the left of the portrait overlooking the men. Even though West is the mentor, his students, one them being Pratt, are clearly the center of his attention. The attitudes of the students are focused and show their seriousness and hard work on their task at hand. They all seem to collaboratively bring their own point of view to the table. The students are similar yet different because they all are focusing on a different focal point.

West appears to be the mentor of the four artists, which demonstrates the American ideal of nurturing and encouraging students. West (as well as Pratt) was born in Pennsylvania but was taught to paint in England. He was looked up to by young American artists for over 40 years and this painting captures the inspiration and dedication he provided to his students on a daily basis. This portrait is a product of a pioneer society and of the time period because it is the era when painting began to become an interest in America and painters started to strive to duplicate the works of their English counterparts. Prior to this period, painting was a rarity in colonial America because most artists were able to find an excess of work over in England, thus seeing no need to begin painting in the less demanding colonies.