The celebrated artist Benjamin West painted this portrait and a companion portrait of George Warde in 1777 to record the boyhood friendship of two of the period’s most admired military generals.

West was born in Springfield, Pennsylvania, and arrived in England in 1763. He soon rose to become official history painter to King George III and later President of the Royal Academy of Arts from 1792, after the death of Joshua Reynolds.

In 1777 the army officer George Warde (later General George Warde) commissioned West to paint his portrait to hang at Squerryes Court, his family home near Westerham, Kent. Warde had been the childhood friend of James Wolfe, the young general who became a national hero in 1759 when he was killed leading British troops to victory against the French at the Battle of Quebec.

West painted a romantic portrait of Warde as a boy, setting a bird free from a cage. To accompany the portrait he made a companion picture of Wolfe, shown as a young man studying military tactics.

Wolfe had spent his childhood close to Warde at nearby Spiers, now Quebec House, a building today in the hands of the National Trust. These pictures now join the Quebec House collection both as fine portraits by a leading painter and as a record of the famous friendship that blossomed there.


By descent through the family of George Warde at Squerryes Court.

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