George Washington

Gilbert Stuart

(b. near Kingston, R.I., 1755–d. Boston, 1828)­­­­

Title: 

George Washington

Date: 

c. 1800[1]

Medium: 
Oil on canvas
Size: 

28 13/16 x 23 13/16 in. (73.2 x 60.5 cm)

William A. Clark Collection

Accession Number: 

26.172

Stuart spent the Revolutionary War years in London, where he gained popularity as a versatile portraitist.  Before returning to the newly independent United States, he boasted that he expected to “make a fortune by Washington,” continuing, “I calculate upon making a plurality of his portraits.”

The initial meeting between the artist and the first American president resulted in several successful sittings. Stuart was inundated with requests for copies of his paintings of Washington, and this canvas is one of the “plurality” made of the so-called Athenaeum portrait. Of all the likenesses painted in Washington’s lifetime, the Athenaeum type best captures the president’s modest yet resolute character. Avoiding the theatrical poses and rhetorical gestures common to portrayals of eminent men of the period, this austere portrait has the solemn dignity of a Roman bust.