Gilbert Stuart - First PainterRecently I made mention of the fact that Gilbert Stuart comes quickly to mind (to teenagers at least) when one mentions American artists. Of course this Colonial portrait master owes most if not all his popularity to our first President. His portrait of Washington, which formed the basis for the etching on the one-dollar bill, makes him undoubtedly the most published painter of all time. His unfinished portrait of Washington (seen cropped on the left and bottom in most reproductions) has graced classroom walls in past eras to become an American icon rivalling the flag itself.
Actually there is not one Washington portrait by Gilbert Stuart but several. Once the original portrait was begun, it proved so popular that Stuart started knocking them out one every few weeks. In fact, when Martha Washington demanded the original, Stuart is known to have put her off several weeks so he could finish numerous copies. The famous unfinished portrait is but one of those copies that Stuart was unable to complete before his death.
Contributed by Lane, Jim
28 November 1997