Jamestown Historical Society

From the Collection – Francis X. West, Jamestown Painter

Francis X. West was an artist and painting contractor who worked from his Red Elephant Studio on Cole Street. In the JHS Collection is his artist’s palette with images of clouds, gulls, and sailboats. At the bottom of the palette is his autograph, “Frank West RES.”

Old Jamestown (left) was probably painted, in the early 1950’s. The painting shows the Thorndike Hotel, Gardner House, Bay View Hotel, and East Ferry wharves with one sailboat in the foreground. Although only the Bay View Hotel remained when West painted the scene, he based the painting on a photograph in the JHS Collection that shows the East Ferry waterfront ca. 1900. If you look carefully, you may be able to see a windmill on the wharf north of the ferry landing.

In 1969, West’s family donated six of his marine paintings to the Mahan Library at the Naval War College. The Naval War College Museum confirms the paintings remain in their collection. Three of them, “The Columbus Fleet”, “Tompkinsville, New York” and “USS Constitution and HMS Guerriere” are currently on display in McCarty-Little Hall, an area not open to the public. The other three are not on display at this time and are being kept in their collections storage building.

Also in the JHS Collection is a miniature pastel of sailing boats painted by West. Handwritten on the back is “Red Elephant Studios, Jamestown, RI.” The Jamestown Philomenian Library has four of West’s paintings. Three paintings of sailing ships are on public display and the fourth of a coastal scene is in an office area.

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