The Timeless Meaning of George Washington's Image
George Washington is perhaps the most easily recognizable American figure. His face is everywhere from money to public schools and statues in museums to portraits in government buildings. The towering man, both symbolically and physically, is synonymous with the ideas of patriotism and democracy now, but what did his portrait mean to Americans and the man himself, and how did this meanign come to be? Washington’s person was notably recreated on canvas and in stone dozens of times just during his own lifetime, and many more in his death. He and his contemporaries wrote frequently to each other on the topic of reccomending artists. How did Washington, whether inadvertantly or not, contribute to the growth of American art and culture in the country's natal years and beyond? Artists like John Trumbull, Gilbert Stuart, and Charles Willson Peale have all depicted the man, but what does his image really mean?
The portraiture of Washington in America is commonplace, but very few take the time to consider what this means. In today's digital world, we often take images for granted, dismissing them as something that has always been there. This mindset is why it is imperative to examine the importance of the image BEFORE the digital age, and Washington's image certainly has importance, but why? What did Washington's portrait mean in his lifetime? What did his portrait contribute to the American society that is present today? In short, what can be learned from the creation, desire to create, and distribution of Washington's image?
"Pictures, especially those of inspiring men such as General Washington, can have surprising power."