Overview

Gilbert Stuart was exclusively a portraitist; in his five-decade career, he produced well over 1100 pictures, less than ten of which were not likenesses. Of these portraits, nearly one-tenth are images of George Washington, to whom he was introduced by their mutual friend Chief Justice John Jay. Stuart's 104 known likenesses of the first president are divided into categories named after the owners of Stuart's originals, from which he made his own replicas: the National Gallery's George Washington (Vaughan portrait) was purchased by Samuel Vaughan, a London merchant who was the president's close friend.

A charming conversationalist, Stuart would chat while painting, thereby entertaining his sitters to maintain the freshness of their expressions during the long hours of posing. To the serious and taciturn Washington, however, Stuart's glib wit was annoying. The artist claimed, "An apathy seemed to seize him, and a vacuity spread over his countenance, most appalling to paint." Nevertheless, this image has spontaneity because of its quick, sketchy handling. To impart the sixty-three-year-old subject's imposing physical presence, Stuart placed the head high in the design. Finally, he added the crimson glow that complements Washington's ruddy complexion and surrounds his head like a superhuman aureole.

Inscription

on reverse of the original canvas, in a contemporary or slightly later hand (now covered by the lining canvas): "General Washington By Mr. Stuart. 1795

Marks and Labels

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Provenance

Purchased by John Vaughan, Philadelphia, for his father, Samuel Vaughan [1720-1802], London; his son, William Vaughan [1752-1850], London;[1] purchased around 1851 by Joseph Harrison, Jr. [1810-1874], Philadelphia;[2] his widow, Sarah Poulterer Harrison [1817-1906]; sold (M. Thomas and Sons, Philadelphia, 12 March 1912, no. 30) to Thomas B. Clarke [1848-1931], New York;[3] his estate; sold as part of the Clarke collection on 29 January 1936, through (M. Knoedler & Co., New York), to The A. W. Mellon Educational and Charitable Trust, Pittsburgh; gift 1942 to NGA.

Exhibition History

1880
Exhibition of Portraits Painted by Gilbert Stuart, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 1880, no. 262
1887
Loan Exhibition of Historical Portraits, Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia, 1887-1888, no. 448
1889
Centennial Celebration of the Inauguration of George Washington; Loan Exhibition of Historical Portraits and Relics, Metropolitan Opera House, New York, 1889, no. 30
1926
A Loan Exhibition of Paintings by Early American Portrait Painters, The Century Association, New York, 1926, no. 1.
1928
Portraits by Early American Artists of the Seventeenth, Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries, Collected by Thomas B. Clarke, Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1928-1931, unnumbered and unpaginated catalogue.
1929
Exhibition of Historical Portraits, 1585-1830, Virginia Historical Society, Richmond, 1929, unnumbered
1932
George Washington Bicentennial Historical Loan Exhibition of Portraits of George Washington and his Associates, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1932, no. 12
1940
Masterpieces of Art. European & American Paintings 1500-1900, New York World's Fair, 1940, no. 181.
1944
Gilbert Stuart: Portraits Lent by the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, 1944-1945, no. 12
1946
American Painting from the Eighteenth Century to the Present Day, Tate Gallery, London, 1946, no. 203
1967
Gilbert Stuart, Portraitist of the Young Republic, 1755-1828, National Gallery of Art; Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, 1967, no. 27
1968
Presidential Portraits, National Portrait Gallery, Washington, 1968, unnumbered
1972
Harry D.M. Grier Memorial Loan Exhibition, The Frick Collection, New York, 1972, no. 11
2004
Gilbert Stuart, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; National Gallery of Art (for the National Portrait Gallery), Washington, D.C., 2004-2005, no. 35, repro.

Bibliography

1789
Lavater, Johann Caspar. Essays on Physiognomy, designed to promote the Knowledge and Love of Mankind. Edited by Thomas Holloway. 3 vols. London, 1789-1798: 3:repro. between 434 and 435, 435.
1834
Dunlap 1834, 1:196-206.
1846
Lester, C. Edwards. The Artists of America. New York, 1846: 129-130.
1855
Tuckerman, Henry T. "Original Portraits of Washington." Putnam's Monthly 6 (October 1855): 345-347.
1858
Peale, Rembrandt. "Washington and his Portraits." Unpublished lecture, Charles Roberts Autograph Letters Collection, Haverford College, Pennsylvania, in Miller 1980 (fiche VIB/19F11-20B14: 16, 20-21), and reprinted in Eisen 1932, I:297-323.
1860
Custis, George Washington Parke. Recollections and Private Memoirs of Washington. Edited by Benson J. Lossing. New York, 1860: 520-523, 628.
1867
Tuckerman 1867, 115-120, 630.
1870
Catalogue of Pictures, Statuary, and Bronzes in the Gallery of Joseph Harrison, Jr., Rittenhouse Square, Philadelphia. Philadelphia, 1870: 6-7, no. 22.
1876
Stuart, Jane. "The Stuart Portraits of Washington." Scribner's Monthly 12, no. 3 (July 1876): 369, 373-374.
1879
Mason, George C. The Life and Works of Gilbert Stuart. New York, 1879: 87-91.
1880
Hart, Charles Henry. "Mason's Life of Stuart." The American Art Review 1 (March 1880): 220-221.
1880
"Portraits Painted by Stuart...taken from Mason's Life and Works of Gilbert Stuart." In Exhibition of Portraits Painted by Gilbert Stuart. Exh. cat. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 1880: 25, no cat. number.
1882
Johnston, Elizabeth Bryant. Original Portraits of Washington, including Statues, Monuments and Medals. Boston, 1882: 91-93.
1889
Hart, Charles Henry. "Original Portraits of Washington." Century Magazine 37, no. 6 (April 1889): 865.
1892
Bowen, Clarence Winthrop. The History of the Centennial Celebration of the Inauguration of George Washington as First President of the United States. New York, 1892: repro. opp. 12, 544-545.
1904
Hart, Charles Henry. Catalogue of the Engraved Portraits of Washington. New York, 1904: 126, no. 259.
1922
Sherman, Frederic Fairchild. "Gilbert Stuart's First Portrait of Washington from Life; The Vaughan Picture Painted in 1795." Art in America 11, no. 1 (December 1922): frontispiece, 43-45.
1923
Eisen, Gustavus A. "Stuart's Three Washingtons." International Studio 76, no. 309 (February 1923): 386-394, repro.
1923
Fielding 1923, 83, 85-87, 114, no. 1, repro. frontispiece and opp. 114.
1926
Park 1926, 845, no. 1, repro.
1928
Portraits by Early American Artists of the Seventeenth, Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries, Collected by Thomas B. Clarke. Exh. cat. Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1928, unnumbered.
1930
Sherman, Frederic Fairchild. "Gilbert Stuart's Portraits of George Washington." Art in America 18, no. 6 (October 1930): 261-270, repro.
1930
Weddell, Alexander Wilbourne, ed. A Memorial Volume of Virginia Historical Portraiture, 1585-1830. Richmond, 1930: 215, repro. between 16 and 17, opp. 216.
1931
Morgan & Fielding 1931, 223, 225-232, 236, 250, 347-352, repro. opp. 224 and opp. 250.
1932
Eisen, Gustavus A. Portraits of Washington. 3 vols. New York, 1932: 1:plate III, 7-11, 21, 35-37, 39.
1932
Whitley 1932, 93-95.
1939
Decatur, Stephen. "Stuart's First Life Portrait of Washington." Antiques 35 (February 1939): 70-72, repro.
1944
Cairns, Huntington, and John Walker, eds., Masterpieces of Painting from the National Gallery of Art. New York, 1944: 142, color repro.
1949
Paintings and Sculpture from the Mellon Collection. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1949 (reprinted 1953 and 1958): 138, repro.
1963
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. New York, 1963 (reprinted 1964 in French, German, and Spanish): 321, repro.
1964
Mount 1964, 186-195, 378.
1966
Cairns, Huntington, and John Walker, eds. A Pageant of Painting from the National Gallery of Art. 2 vols. New York, 1966: 2:384, color repro.
1967
Richardson, Edgar P. "Portraits of Washington, 1795-1796." In Gilbert Stuart: Portraitist of the Young Republic, 1755-1828. Exh. cat. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1967: 25-30.
1970
American Paintings and Sculpture: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1970: 106, repro.
1972
Wainwright, Nicholas B. "Joseph Harrison, Jr., a forgotten art collector." Antiques 102 (October 1972): 660-668, pl. I.
1975
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. New York, 1975: 387, color repro.
1980
American Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1980: 236, repro.
1980
Wilmerding, John. American Masterpieces from the National Gallery of Art. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1980: 55, repro.
1983
Miller et al. 1983
1984
Evans, Dorinda. "Gilbert Stuart: Two Recent Discoveries." American Art Journal 16, no. 3 (Summer 1984): 85-88, repro.
1984
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Rev. ed. New York, 1984: 383, no. 542, color repro.
1988
Wilmerding, John. American Masterpieces from the National Gallery of Art. Rev. ed. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1988: 58, repro.
1989
Verheyen, Egon. "The Most exact representation of the Original': Remarks on Portraits of George Washington by Gilbert Stuart and Rembrandt Peale." In Multiple Originals, Copies, and Reproductions. CASVA, Symposium Papers 7, Washington, D.C., 1989: 127-139.
1992
American Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1992: 349, repro.
1992
National Gallery of Art, Washington. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1992: 220, repro.
1993
Evans, Dorinda. "Survival and Transformation: The Colonial Portrait in the Federal Era." In The Portrait in Eighteenth-Century America. Edited by Ellen G. Miles. Newark and London, 1993: 130, repro. 132, 133.
1995
Miles, Ellen G. American Paintings of the Eighteenth Century. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, D.C., 1995: 201-206, color repro. 203.
1997
Henderson, Anne. "Portraits & Personalities." Washington Parent (November 1997): 14.
2004
Hand, John Oliver. National Gallery of Art: Master Paintings from the Collection. Washington and New York, 2004: 292-293, no. 239, color repro.
2013
Evans, Dorinda. Gilbert Stuart and the Impact of Manic Depression. Burlington, 2013: 62-64, 88-89 nn. 28 and 29, 173, figs. 30, 31.

Technical Summary

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