Began his career painting portraits, including one of young Sally Franklin, in the Philadelphia area in the mid 1750s.
Went to Italy (1760). Settled in London (1763), where he, and later his wife, became close friends of Franklin.
West spent the remainder of his life in England. Became famous and was appointed historical painter to George III (1772). A founding member of the Royal Academy of Arts (1768), of which he was president every year except one from 1792 until his death.
Born in Springfield, Pennsylvania. Married to Elizabeth Shewell, c. 1763; two sons, one of whom, Benjamin Jr., was Franklin’s godson.