From: Old and New London: Volume 4. Originally published by Cassell, Petter & Galpin, London, 1878:
“Extending eastward from the southern end of Her Majesty’s Theatre to Trafalgar Square, and skirting the northern end of Cockspur Street, is Pall Mall East…
At No. 5 are the rooms of the old Society of Painters in Water-Colours. Externally the building possesses nothing to call for special mention, excepting, perhaps, a new and elegant doorway, which was erected in 1875; this, alike in design and workmanship, is worthy of the gallery to which it gives access. The society itself originated in 1808, when its first exhibition of water-colour drawings took place. It was at first blended with that of the Royal Academy; but in 1821 the painters in this branch of art determined to exhibit their productions separately from other artists, and erected the house in Pall Mall East expressly for the purpose. The exhibition is open during the greater part of the year, and comprises usually about 500 pictures of various kinds, among which, as might be expected, landscapes generally predominate. This society has always limited the exhibition entirely to its own members; but the body of artists showed a gradual and steady increase.
Here, in the year 1819, were exhibited the chefs d’æuvres of Benjamin West, President of the Royal Academy…
From its central position, Pall Mall East has always been a favourite locality in the world of art…”
“Benjamin West PRA (October 10, 1738 – March 11, 1820) was an American-born artist, who painted famous historical scenes such as The Death of Nelson, The Death of General Wolfe, and Benjamin Franklin Drawing Electricity from the Sky.
Entirely self-taught, West soon gained valuable patronage, and he toured Europe, eventually settling in London. He impressed George III and was largely responsible for the launch of the Royal Academy, of which he became the second president (after Sir Joshua Reynolds). He was appointed historical painter to the court and Surveyor of the King’s Pictures.
West also painted religious subjects, as in his huge work The Preservation of St Paul after a Shipwreck at Malta, at the Chapel of St Peter and St Paul in Greenwich, and Christ Healing the Sick, presented to the National Gallery.”