Paintings of the deaths of Nelson and other heroes

The anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar provides an opportunity to introduce pupils to History Paintings, or Istoria.

History Paintings are held to be the noblest genre of traditional art. They are of great people and great events (mythical as well as real).

The artist normally uses the finest materials - oils on canvas or oils on wood.

In the centuries before the camera arrived, History Paintings were a splendid way of recording major events - although the artist did not have the cameraman's real-life view of what took place.

The death of Nelson on 21 October 1805 is marked in the The Death of Nelson painted in 1806 by Benjamin West.

More than fifty years later, Daniel Maclise painted a rather sentimental version of the same event. Search the Liverpool Art Gallery for the painting

Many years before the Battle of Trafalgar, General Wolfe died in Canada at the Battle of Quebec of 1759. Benjamin West created a vast History Painting of this in 1770.

The killing in Hawaii of the British nagivator and explorer, Captain James Cook, in 1779 was left unfinished by Johann Zoffany. Notice in this painting where Zoffany has placed the body of Cook and how he draws our attention to it.

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