GILBERT STUART,Vintage Art Masterpieces,Vintage Prints for Sale George Washington by GILBERT STUART {American School}

George Washington by GILBERT STUART {American School}

George WashingtonGeorge Washington

by GILBERT STUART {American School}

 

IT WAS the lot of Gilbert Stuart to paint the most famous picture in American
art, a portrait which, irrespective of its merits, has been accepted by the Ameri­
can people as inviolable, as the one and only authentic conception of the first
President of the United States.

Stuart’s early life promised no such climax,
but when the British had fallen prey to his magnetism and technical parts, he
returned home and carried off the greatest portrait prize in modern times.

 

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Stuart was an anomaly to the New England of his day: a temperamental
Scot capable of the extremes of lightheartedness and despondency, a man of
wit and personality, and an artist in the Continental style.

He was born in
Rhode Island, the son of an emigrant snuff grinder; and after a WIllful youth
of vagabondage and spurts of painting, he went to England, penniless but con­
fident, and was graciously coached by Benjamin West.

He was soon established
as one of the leading portraitists of London; his prices were high and he lived
in princely style with Bohemian irresponsibility.

But he lived beyond his
means, and was reduced to beggary, if 110t to prison fare.

Stuart returned to America in 1794 with the express purpose of painting
Washington, instigated alike by hero worship and pecuniary reverses.

The
artist who had snubbed Dr. Johnson and painted British royalty was bowled
over by the “great self-command of the President,” he confessed, and his first
effort was unsatisfactory. At the second sitting, or the third-the records are not
clear-he painted the household portrait-his only extant pamting of Wash­
ington made from the life-which was sold by his destitute widow to the Boston
Athenaeum, whence its name.

Stuart painted other pictures of the President,
copies and imaginary likenesses, some more rugged, some unquestionably
more literal, but none other that has found its way into the hearts of his country­
men.

The Athenaeum portrait, here reproduced, was painted thinly with high
flesh tints-Stuart had a weakness for certain reds and all but rouged his
subjects-and finished only in the head and shoulders. “I copy the work of
God,” he said, “and leave the clothes to the tailors.”

It has the technical facility
that made him one of the best men of his day; but its popularity is based upon
the smooth stateliness and refined paternity consistent with, and perhaps re­
sponsible for, the legendary conception of the Father of His Country.

As Mark
Twain put It: “If Washington should rise from the dead and not resemble the
Stuart portrait, he would be denounced as an impostor.”

 

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