Gilbert Stuart, who created portraits of key figures of the American Revolution and in early U.S. history, died on this day in history on July 9, 1828.
Gilbert’s distinctive portrait style remains the way that modern Americans view many of the Founding Fathers and other figures central to the nation’s formative years, noted George Washington’s Mount Vernon official website.
“Stuart’s most iconic portrait, the Athenaeum portrait of George Washington, serves as the basis for Washington’s depiction on the American one-dollar bill,” said this same source.
Gilbert Stuart’s portrait of John Jay (1745-1829) — American statesman, patriot, diplomat, one of the Founding Fathers and the first chief justice of the United States. Painted by American painter Stuart (1755-1828). (Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
After the failure of his father’s business, the family moved to Newport, Rhode Island, to a property his mother had inherited, stated the same source.
While living in Newport, Stuart developed a love for music and drawing, the same source indicated.
Scottish portraitist Cosmo Alexander gave Stuart his earliest training in painting, and Stuart accompanied Alexander to Scotland in 1771, returning home at the older artist’s death, according to the National Gallery of Art.
Stuart exhibited his work at the Royal Academy from 1777 to 1785, recounted the same source.
The success of “The Skater,” which Stuart painted in 1782, enabled him to establish his own business as a portrait painter, stated the National Gallery of Art.
“After the Americans defeated the British in the Revolutionary War, Stuart decided he would return to the newly formed United States and find a way to paint its most famous hero, George Washington,” said the White House Historical Association.
He believed that if he could paint Washington, according to the same source, then he would “make a fortune.”
Stuart landed in New York and interacted with several high-profile patrons.
In 1795, Stuart attempted to secure a sitting with President George Washington.
With a letter of introduction from Justice John Jay, he was successful, added the same source.
“He repainted the portrait from memory in order to improve the piece, but remained dissatisfied with the final product as it had not been painted from life,” added the same source.
Former President Donald Trump, beneath a portrait of first U.S. President George Washington at the White House in Washington, D.C. Painter Gilbert Stuart painted three copies of the Lansdowne portrait of George Washington, shown above — and five portraits that were closely related to it. His most famous copy has hung in the East Room of the White House since 1800. Numerous other artists also painted copies. (BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
Stuart again had the opportunity to paint Washington in 1796.
This time he produced a full-length likeness commissioned by the Marquis of Lansdowne and the Philadelphia socialite Anne Willing Bingham, who had requested that Washington sit for it, said Mount Vernon.
“Stuart never finished the original, but he used it to make many replicas of the painting, including an 1805 version,” said the same source.
Stuart painted Dolly Madison in 1804 when her husband James served as Secretary of State; the likeness is regarded as exhibiting “astonishing subtleties … and masterful transitions of tone,” according to the White House Historical Association.
The portrait of Mrs. Madison became part of the White House Collection in 1994.
Stuart’s work can be found today at art museums across the United States and the United Kingdom.
Throughout his career, Stuart produced portraits of over 1,000 people, including the first six presidents of the United States.
His work can be found today at art museums across the United States and the United Kingdom, most notably the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., the National Portrait Gallery in London and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, according to the official website of Gilbert Stuart.
In 1966, the Gilbert Stuart Museum was designated a registered national landmark.