Famous oil painting of Benjamin Franklin Drawing Electricity from the Sky. In the collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, a gift of Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Wharton Sinkler in 1958.
This dramatic painting by Benjamin West commemorates Franklin conducting his kite experiment in 1752 to ascertain the electrical nature of lighting. Benjamin Franklin had published a proposal for an experiment to prove that lightning is electricity by flying a kite in a storm that appeared capable of becoming a lightning storm. In 1752, Franklin conducted his well-known kite experiment in Philadelphia, successfully drawing electricity from the sky.
Benjamin West was born in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania, in 1738, when the American colonies were still part of the British Empire, and became an renowned history painter and the second president of England's Royal Academy of Arts. While in London, West befriended Benjamin Franklin, a fellow Pennsylvanian, but did not render this likeness of the celebrated scientist and American statesman until had died, creating it as a study for a larger, unrealized portrait that he planned to give to Pennsylvania Hospital, an institution Franklin founded in Philadelphia. West intended to display the larger picture with another of his compositions and a self-portrait, perhaps as an homage to Americans who had achieved international acclaim in science and the arts.