Benjamin West and His Cat Grimalkin
by Marguerite Henry
This is a charming book about the real Quaker boy who became the royal painter to King George III. The story is set in mid-18th century in Pennsylvania. At this time, Quakers believed art to be worldly and vain. While Benjamin secretly practices his drawing skills, he is aided by local Indians who teach him how to make colors out of things found in nature. Benjamin also shows his resourcefulness and determination when he “borrows” fur from his cat’s tail to make paintbrushes. Benjamin respectfully works to persuade his parents and church to recognize his talent and to permit him to receive art training. Benjamin West became a famous and influential painter as a result and is known as The Father of American Painting. After reading this story, my kids were excited when we visited the Huntington Library in Pasadena and saw a couple of West’s paintings hanging in the art gallery. The story of Benjamin West encourages children to be persistent in developing their talents and not to give up on something if they truly have a passion for doing it. The story also lends itself to supplemental lessons or research about the Quakers, William Penn, and West’s art. Kids and adults of all ages will love this book!
- Paintings by Benjamin West (www.artinthepicture.com)
- Slideshow of 102 of West’s paintings (www.bbc.co.uk)
- Collection of West’s art at Philadelphia Museum of Art (www.philamuseum.org)
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