Benjamin West

Alexander III of Scotland Rescued from the Fury of a Stag by the Intrepidity of Colin Fitzgerald ('The Death of the Stag') (1786)

About this artwork

This is by far the largest painting in the collection and admirably represents West's heroic and monumental style. It illustrates a legend in which the first chieftain of the Clan Mackenzie saves the life of the Scottish King. Colin Fitzgerald is shown about to spear a fierce stag who had turned on the Scottish King, Alexander III, during a hunting expedition. West includes other huntsmen, horses and dogs whose dynamic poses and striking gestures enhance the dramatic moment. Francis Humberston Mackenzie became chieftain of the Mackenzie Clan in 1783 and commissioned the painting to commemorate, rather conspicuously, his illustrious ancestor. The painting has recently been conserved in public in the National Gallery.

  • title: Alexander III of Scotland Rescued from the Fury of a Stag by the Intrepidity of Colin Fitzgerald ('The Death of the Stag')
  • accession number: NG 2448
  • artist: Benjamin WestAmerican (1738 - 1820)
  • depicted: Alexander III
  • gallery: Scottish National Gallery(On Display)
  • object type: Painting
  • subject: Animals Death Royalty Sport and leisure
  • medium: Oil on canvas
  • date created: 1786
  • measurements: 366.00 x 521.00 cm (framed: 417.60 x 517.00 x 14.20 cm)
  • credit line: Purchased with the aid of the National Heritage Memorial Fund, the Art Fund (William Leng Bequest), Ross and Cromarty District Council and Dennis F. Ward 1987
  • photographer: Antonia Reeve

Benjamin West

Benjamin West

West was the first American artist to gain an international reputation, above all for his dramatic history painting. He was born in Pennsylvania and received no formal artistic training. The four years he spent in Italy (1759-63) confirmed his interest in depicting heroic subjects from ancient and modern history. He moved to London and established himself first as a portrait painter. He was a founder member of the Royal Academy and succeeded Sir Joshua Reynolds as its President. The triumphal success of his painting 'The Death of General Wolfe' (1771) led to his appointment as history painter to King George III.