Overview

Edward Savage's The Washington Family quickly became a veritable icon of our early national pride. In the winter of 1789–1790, President Washington and his wife posed for Savage in New York City, then the nation's capital. Mrs. Washington's grandchildren, adopted by the Washingtons after the deaths of their parents, probably also sat for their oil portraits in New York. Savage began to incorporate the separate life studies of their faces into a group portrait engraved on a copper plate. After a stay in England, he resumed the family portrait in Philadelphia—this time, however, in large format as an oil on canvas. The Washington Family was exhibited in 1796.

Savage's catalogue states that Washington's uniform and the papers beneath his hand allude to his "Military Character" and "Presidentship" respectively. With a map before her, Martha Washington is "pointing with her fan to the grand avenue," now known as Pennsylvania Avenue. A servant overdressed in livery and a supposed vista down the Potomac complete the imaginary scene.

Savage's self–taught ability to distinguish between satins, gauzes, and laces is nothing short of astonishing. However, the anatomy alternates between wooden and rubbery, and the family strangely avoids eye contact. Despite Savage's lack of experience, his huge Washington Family remains one of the most ambitious projects ever undertaken by a federal artist.

Inscription

Marks and Labels

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Provenance

The artist;[1] purchased from his estate, 14 November 1820, by Ethan Allen Greenwood [1779-1856], Boston;[2] sold 1839 to Moses Kimball [1809-1895], Boston, with the contents of the New England Museum and Gallery of Fine Arts;[3] sold December 1891 to (Samuel P. Avery Jr., New York);[4] sold 1892 to William Frederick Havemeyer [1850-1913], New York.[5] National Democratic Club, New York;[6] sold 15 December 1922 to (Art House, Inc., New York);[7] Thomas B. Clarke [1848-1931], New York; his estate; sold as part of the Clarke collection 29 January 1936, through (M. Knoedler & Co., New York), to The A.W. Mellon Educational and Charitable Trust, Pittsburgh; gift 1940 to NGA.

Exhibition History

1796
Columbian Gallery, New York, 1796-1800.
1801
Columbian Gallery, New York, 1801-1802, no. 48 [probably exhibited until 1810].
1810
Columbian Museum, Boston, 1810-1823.
1826
New-England Museum, Boston, c. 1826, no. 1.
1838
New-England Museum, Boston [probably exhibited through 1838/1840].
1841
Boston Museum and Gallery of Fine Arts, 1841-1891.
1892
Exhibition of the Important Oil Painting [of] Washington and His Family by Edwin [sic] Savage, of Princeton, Mass. Born 1761. Died 1817., Avery Galleries, New York, 1892.
1924
Exhibition of Portraits by Early American Portrait Painters, The Union League Club, New York, February 1924, no. 1.
1924
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1924-1925.
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
Virginia Historical Portraiture, Virginia House, Richmond, 1929.
1932
George Washington Bicentennial Historical Loan Exhibition of Portraits of George Washington and his Associates, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, 1932, no. 17.
1939
Life in America [A Special Loan Exhibition of Paintings Held During the Period of the New York World's Fair], The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1939, no. 39, repro.
1950
Makers of History in Washington 1800-1950 [An Exhibition Celebrating the Sesquicentennial of the Establishment of the Federal Government in Washington], National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1950, unnumbered, repro.
1985
The Washington Family by Edward Savage: An Inaugural Celebration, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1985, unnumbered catalogue, repro.
1999
George and Martha Washington: Portraits from the Presidential Years, National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C., 1999, unnumbered catalogue, repro.

Bibliography

1796
Gazette of the United States. Philadelphia, 20 February, 1796.
1801
Mercantile Advertiser. New York, 19 November, 1801: 2.
1802
An Admirer of the Polite Arts. "Review of Exhibition of Paintings." New York Morning Chronicle, 18 November, 1802: 3.
1802
Columbian Gallery. At the Pantheon, No. 80, Greenwich-Street, near the Battery. New York, 1802: 3-4, no. 48.
1802
Commercial Advertiser. New York, 14 June, 1802: 4.
1802
Mercantile Advertiser. New York, 20 April, 1802: 2.
1834
Dunlap 1834, 1:321.
1841
Catalogue of the Paintings, Marble and Plaster Statuary and Engravings comprised in the Collection of the Boston Museum and Gallery of Fine Arts. Boston, 1841: 3, no. 6.
1842
Catalogue of the Paintings, Marble and Plaster Statuary and Engravings comprised in the Collection of the Boston Museum and Gallery of Fine Arts. Boston, 1842: 3, no. 6.
1844
Catalogue of the Paintings, Marble and Plaster Statuary and Engravings, comprised in the Collection of the Boston Museum and Gallery of Fine Arts. Boston, 1844: 3, no. 6.
1847
Catalogue of the Paintings, Portraits, Marble and Plaster Statuary, Engravings & Water Color Drawings, in the Collection of the Boston Museum. Boston, 1847: 14, no. 184.
1858
Peale, Rembrandt. "Washington and his Portraits." Unpublished lecture. Charles Roberts Autograph Letters College, Haverford College, Pennsylvania (Lillian B. Miller, ed., Peale Family Papers, microfiche ed., fiche VIB/19-20), 1858: 15.
1882
Johnston, Elizabeth Bryant. Original Portraits of Washington, including Statues, Monuments, and Medals. Boston, 1882: 46-47, engraving repro. opp. 46.
1892
Exhibition of the Important Oil Painting Washington and His Family by Edwin [sic] Savage, of Princeton, Mass. Exh. cat. Avery Galleries, New York, 1892.
1893
Savage's Painting of Washington and Family. Album of letters and newspaper clippings. Library, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., c. 1893.
1897
Hart, Charles Henry. "Life Portraits of George Washington." McClure's Magazine 8, no. 4 (February 1897): 299.
1905
Hart, Charles Henry. Edward Savage, Painter and Engraver, and his Unfinished Copper-plate of "The Congress Voting Independence". Boston, 1905: 8-11.
1924
Fielding, Mantle. "Edward Savage's Portraits of Washington." Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 48 (1924): 197-200, engraving opp. 193.
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.
1931
Morgan, John Hill, and Mantle Fielding. The Life Portraits of Washington and Their Replicas. Philadelphia, 1931: 178-179, 183-186, no. 8, repro.
1932
Eisen, Gustavus A. Portraits of Washington. 3 vols. New York, 1932: 2:457-458, 461-465, plates 99 and 153 (detail).
1941
Preliminary Catalogue of Paintings and Sculpture. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1941: 179-180, no. 488.
1942
Book of Illustrations. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1942: 249, repro. 8.
1946
Favorite Paintings from the National Gallery of Art Washington, D.C.. New York, 1946: 61-64, color repro.
1949
Dickson, Harold E. John Wesley Jarvis, American Painter; 1780-1840. New York, 1949: 38, 45-50, 54.
1949
Paintings and Sculpture from the Mellon Collection. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1949 (reprinted 1953 and 1958): 129, repro.
1951
King, Marian. Portfolio Number 3. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1951: no. 10, color repro.
1952
Dresser, Louisa. "Edward Savage, 1761-1817." Art in America 40, no. 4 (Autumn 1952): 199-204, no. 25, repro.
1956
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. New York, 1956: 50, repro.
1959
Bouton, Margaret. American Painting in the National Gallery of Art. Washington, D.C., 1959 (Booklet Number One in Ten Schools of Painting in the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.): 18, color repro.
1959
Gottesman, Rita Susswein. "New York's First Major Art Show." New-York Historical Society Quarterly 43 (July 1959): 300, repro. 301, 304-305, no. 48.
1962
Cairns, Huntington, and John Walker, eds., Treasures from the National Gallery of Art, New York, 1962: 132, color repro.
1966
Cairns, Huntington, and John Walker, eds. A Pageant of Painting from the National Gallery of Art. 2 vols. New York, 1966: 2:388, color repro.
1970
American Paintings and Sculpture: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1970: 98, repro.
1973
Dickson, Harold E. "Artists as Showmen." American Art Journal 5, no. 1 (May 1973): 4, 7-8, fig. 3.
1973
Kaplan, Sidney. The Black Presence in the Era of the American Revolution, 1770-1800. Exh. cat. National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C., 1973: 33.
1975
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. New York, 1975: 386, repro. 387.
1980
American Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1980: 220, repro.
1980
Wilmerding, John. American Masterpieces from the National Gallery of Art. Washington, 1980: 9.
1981
Williams 1981, color repro. 54-55, 67, 72.
1982
Wick, Wendy C. George Washington, An American Icon: The Eighteenth-Century Graphic Portraits. Washington, 1982: 43, 122-124.
1984
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Rev. ed. New York, 1984: 383, no. 539, color repro.
1988
Wilmerding, John. American Masterpieces from the National Gallery of Art. Rev. ed. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1988: frontispiece, 9.
1989
Honour, Hugh. The Image of the Black in Western Art. 4, part 1: Slaves and Liberators. Cambridge, Mass. 1989: 46-48, repro. fig. 13, 311.
1992
American Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1992: 333, repro.
1992
National Gallery of Art, Washington. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1992: 221, repro.
1993
Barnhill, Georgia Brady. "'Extracts from the Journals of Ethan A. Greenwood': Portrait Painter and Museum Proprietor." Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society 103, part 1 (October 1993): 91-178.
1995
Miles, Ellen G. American Paintings of the Eighteenth Century. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, D.C., 1995: 146-158, color repro. 147.
2004
Hand, John Oliver. National Gallery of Art: Master Paintings from the Collection. Washington and New York, 2004: 291, no. 236, color repro.
2013
Kusserow, Karl. "Memory, Metaphor, and Meaning in Atlantic Cable Projectors." In Picturing Power: Portraiture and Its Uses in the New York Chamber of Commerce. New York, 2013: 332, color fig. 175.

Technical Summary

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