Gilbert Stuart

Gilbert Stuart

Gilbert Stuart, born December 3 1755, is perhaps the famous artist to depict the first president. In fact, every American has seen a his Lansdowne portrait of Washington, even if they have never been to the National Portrait Gallery in Washington D.C.. Stuart's Washington appears on the American dollar bill, a common and benign item most of us see nearly every day. 

Stuart moved around quite frequently during the revolution, as his family was known to have Tory sympathies. From 1775 to 1787, the artist lived tucked away in London. Within the first few years of his stay in England, he studied under famed artist Benjamin West, This apprenticeship making him a desirable artist in both the UK and the colonies. 

Stuart had an artistic fascination with Washington, being totally awestruck by the man. Evidently, Washington did not reciprocate these affections for Stuart, most probably because of the artist's lack of regard for civility and responsibility, things that Washington treasured. 

After just a few times sitting for Stuart, the artist was able to recreate portraits of him by memory in about 2 hours, as recorded by his daughter. The portraits of Washington were extremely popular, thus many artists copied Stuarts works in response to the demand. It is because of Stuart than, even during Washington's life, the distribution of his image was becoming a business. (1)

"Gilbert Stuart." In Encyclopedia of World Biography, 2nd ed., 513-515. Vol. 14. Detroit, MI: Gale, 2004. Gale Virtual Reference Library (accessed April 14, 2019).

1. Homberger, Eric. “Image-Making and the Circulation of Images: Peale, Trumbull and the Founding Fathers.” European Journal of American Culture 24, no. 1 (2005): 11–28.