Nelson’s death at the Battle of Trafalgar in October 1805 led to an outpouring of commemorative paintings and monuments and Benjamin West saw the event as an opportunity to revive his career, which had been under a cloud. Taking portraits from the life of many officers who had served in the battle, he painted this large canvas in a matter of months and displayed it in his house, where large crowds gathered to see it. The painting is a very inaccurate and idealised version of events. Nelson died below deck, and the chaos and carnage of the battle is here transformed into a carefully staged, almost polite celebration of the fallen admiral’s heroic end.


  • Title: The Death of Nelson
  • Creator: Benjamin West
  • Creator Lifespan: 1738/1820
  • Creator Nationality: American
  • Creator Gender: Male
  • Creator Death Place: London, England
  • Creator Birth Place: Springfield [now Swarthmore], Pennsylvania, USA
  • Date Created: 1806
  • tag / style: History painting; Benjamin West; Death of Nelson; The Victory; Trafalgar; History painting; battle; Captain Hardy; ship; navy; epic
  • Setting: Battle of Trafalgar
  • Physical Dimensions: w247.5 x h182 cm (Without frame)
  • Artwork History: The painting passed by descent to West’s grand-daughter Maria and was sold on her behalf by her father Raphael West in May 1829
  • Artist biographical information: West was born in America, but settled in England in 1763. One of the founder members of the Royal Academy, he was elected its President in 1792.
  • Additional artwork information: To learn more about this painting, please follow this link: http://www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/walker/collections/19c/west.aspx This painting was the subject of an ‘Artwork Highlight’ talk at the Walker Art Gallery in 2005. To read the notes from this talk please follow this link: http://www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/picture-of-month/displaypicture.asp?venue=2&id=274 The Death of Nelson was also the subject of a Spotlight Display in 2005. Please follow this link to learn more: http://www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/walker/collections/nelsoninfocus/
  • Type: Oil on canvas and panel
  • Rights: Presented to the Corporation of Liverpool in 1866 by Bristow H Hughes and transferred to the Gallery before 1882

Get the app

Explore museums and play with Art Transfer, Pocket Galleries, Art Selfie, and more

Flash this QR Code to get the app
Google apps