Benjamin West (American, 1738–1820)
Oil on canvas
21 7/16 × 15 3/4 inches
Purchase with funds from Margaret and Terry Stent Endowment for the Acquisition of American Art
Among the first American-born artists to achieve international success, Benjamin West enjoyed a prolific career as the historical painter to England’s King George III and as president of the Royal Academy of Arts in London. In this painting, West shows Arethusa, a chaste attendant of the goddess Artemis, as she is bathing—a scene from Ovid’s Metamorphoses. West situates the viewer in the place of the river god Alpheus, who pursues Arethusa after seeing her bathing in a stream. Ovid’s story ends with Arethusa escaping Alpheus’s advances by transforming herself into a fountain.
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