About this artwork

The infamous romantic poet Lord Byron was half-Scottish and spent his early childhood in Aberdeen. He retained a trace of a Scottish accent throughout his life. Byron's complicated relationships had caused a scandal and in 1816 he left Britain forever. At the time of this portrait, he was living in Italy with his lover, Countess Teresa Guiccioli. The American artist, William West, complained that the poet was a difficult sitter, either restless and over-talkative or silent and self-conscious. Nobody liked the finished work; Teresa said it was a 'frightful caricature'.

William Edward West

William Edward West

William Edward West made a name for himself as a painter of miniature portraits in his native Kentucky whilst still in his teens. A benefactor financed his studies in Thomas Sully's studio in Philadelphia. He visited Italy in 1819 and stayed in Europe for the next twenty years. In 1825 he moved to London but financial difficulties forced him to go back to America. Washington Irving, Percy Bysshe Shelley and Lord Byron were among his most celebrated sitters.