Gilbert Stuart, American, 1755 - 1828
Medium: Oil on canvas
Painting: 29 x 23 1/2 in. (73.7 x 59.7 cm)
Frame: 37 3/8 x 32 in. (94.9 x 81.3 cm)
Credit Line: Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Morrie A. Moss
Object Number: 56.5
Not on view
Gilbert Stuart was the leading American portrait painter of the Federal period. His fame rests largely with his three famous portraits of George Washington which have forged the image of the first President in American minds. He lived to paint the next four presidents from life and was revered in Britain as well as the United States. As a youth he traveled to Edinburgh to study and achieved success in the London studio of fellow countryman Benjamin West. From his final return to the United States in 1792 until his death, Stuart was the consummate portrait artist, setting a new standard based upon the British tradition of elegance and nobility created by Reynolds and Gainsborough. Yet he took care to temper this cosmopolitan style with the more factual realism that had characterized American painting since the seventeenth century.
Stuart was interested only in faces. Dr. Prentis Love shows background tones typically muted in sharp contrast to the very vivid flesh colors of the face. He did not work from linear sketches but instead created remarkable likenesses directly on the canvas with quick and loose brush strokes, giving an impressionistic quality to his paintings.