West, Francis Robert (c.1749–1809), artist, was born in Dublin, eldest son of Robert West (qv), artist and founder of a school of drawing which from 1746 was subsidised by the Dublin Society. After Robert West's death (October 1770), the society appointed Francis master of the school of figure drawing; he held this position until his death. His brother John was a porter in the school; Francis paid him out of his own wages.
West, trained by his father, was an excellent draughtsman who could draw figures with precision, even without models. Careful study of engravings gave him a good grounding in art history and he was also an accomplished classical scholar with literary tastes who spoke fluent French, though he never visited France. Past pupils reckoned him an excellent teacher who encouraged his best students and followed their future careers closely. One of them, J. D. Herbert, described him as a ‘smart little dapper man, very voluble in speech and rapid in delivery, used much action – even his features underwent many changes – opening his eyes wide – raising his eyebrows considerably and extending his mouth’ (Herbert, 68). In July 1774 he was granted two months' leave of absence to study in London; on his return he tendered his resignation but soon thought better of this, and was reengaged. He was paid £100 a year, while the two other masters received £60 each. Nonetheless, in 1797 he demanded a pay rise, on the basis of twenty-seven years' employment. His request was denied and he continued teaching at the same salary, although in his later years his unpunctuality grew marked.
West exhibited five times between 1770 and 1780 at the Society of Artists in William St., and twice again in 1800 and 1801. At the RA in London (1790) he showed two portraits. His work, generally executed in chalks and crayons, consisted of portraits, figure subjects, occasional religious and historical works, and conversation pieces. Strickland calls his style ‘mechanical’, but Crookshank and Glin praise his nine oval conversation pieces (c.1770s), which show fashionable families involved in social activities; they liken some of his work to mid-eighteenth-century French engravings.
He died at home in 31 Exchequer St., Dublin, on 24 January 1809. He was married twice, the first time unhappily to a Miss Wolverston and secondly to Ellen Walsh. His children included William West, a surgeon in the navy, and Robert Lucius West (qv), who succeeded his father as master of the Dublin Society School and was the third member of his family to hold this post.