Washington's Image After his Death

Funerary Images

An entire nation weeped following the death of their beloved founder, and the artwork produced from this tragic event certainly reflects their sadness and devotion to Washington. The man seemed immovable, indestructable, but yet he was gone. Henry Lee described him as "...first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his fellow citizens." In just a few weeks, the demand images of Washington exploded, as people made haste to get their hands on somekeepsake of the monumental historical character. The most popular images came from copies of work by artists like Charles Wilson Peale and Gilbert Stuart. (1)

Martha's Dying Wish

Martha Washington, George's beloved wife, died about two and a half years after her husband. In her will, she specifically asks for her granddaughters Elizabeth Park Law and Martha Peter to each have a portrait of their grandfather. Elizabeth was to have "Gen. Washington's picture painted by Trumbull" and Martha was to have "the print of Gen. Washington that hangs in the passage."

The World's Fair

One of the more unique presentations of Washington's image in the centuries following his death is his presence in various forms of art (not only visual) at countless World's Fairs. In 1940, a sixty foot Washington was displayed prominantly in the center of New York's World's Fair. It is easy to imagine why the choice to place a collosal Washington here was made: the looming tensions of war. Washington is here to look upon crowds and inspire patriotism and the American spirit in the face of another war. In a pamphlet from the 1876 Centennial Celebration, a poem describes Washington as a gift from God himself. 

1. Howard Hugh, The Painter’s Chair (New York: Bloomsbury Press, 2009), 15.

Washington's Image After his Death