Project Description

Beginning in 1794, and continuing for some years, Gilbert Stuart traveled to Philadelphia to request sittings with George Washington. Portrait of George Washington, 1798, depicts the fruits of this labor and is one of almost one hundred portraits created of the President by Stuart. President Washington only sat for Stuart three times, forcing the artist to produce various replications of his work. If you have seen the front of a US one-dollar bill, you are familiar with the work of Stuart’s first sitting- a portrayal of a left-facing Washington. This portrait was so well liked by Martha Washington, she insisted that Stuart return and paint another. The second sitting depicted the President facing right. This particular portrait of George Washington is known as the Athenaeum type, so named for the Boston library that acquired the original work upon Stuart’s death. Stuart never finished this right-facing portrait in its entirety, but used it as a starting point to create numerous reproductions. The Portrait of George Washington as seen here is of the latter style, and arrived in the collection in 1974 as a gift from the estate of Oliver Colt Wagstaff, in whose family it had been since the late 1790s. Along with the painting, we have a letter about the portrait from Rembrandt Peale, who states, “I have the pleasure to assure you that the Portrait of Washington in your possession is  really from the pencil of Stuart, & more excellent than many others I have seen.”

-Charla Hamilton, Class of 2015

Object Details

Gilbert Stuart, 1755-1828
28 1/4" x 24 1/8"
Oil on canvas
From the estate of Oliver Colt Wagstaff