William Edward West made a name for himself as a painter of miniature portraits in his native Kentucky whilst still in his teens. A benefactor financed his studies in Thomas Sully's studio in Philadelphia. He visited Italy in 1819 and stayed in Europe for the next twenty years. In 1825 he moved to London but financial difficulties forced him to go back to America. Washington Irving, Percy Bysshe Shelley and Lord Byron were among his most celebrated sitters.