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Gilbert Stuart’s Portrait Shows His Uncanny Ability To Capture The Personality

Abhishek Kumar


What a business is this of a portrait painter! You bring him a potato and expect he will paint you a peach. ——  Gilbert Stuart

\"\" Gilbert Stuart\’s Portrait by Sarah Goodridge

One of the most well-known portrait artists in American history, Gilbert Stuart is best remembered for his incomplete painting of George Washington, known as the Athenaeum. While slow in his work, artist Gilbert Stuart had a friendly demeanour with his subjects and was frequently hired because of the meticulous, lifelike likenesses he faithfully captured for his clients. Stuart\’s portrait subjects took on a notable appearance thanks to his strong, flamboyant, and bravura brushstrokes in oil.

\"\" The Athenaeum: An incomplete painting of George Washington

Gilbert Stuart was born in North Kingston on Dec. 3, 1755. Stuart started showing great artistic promise at a very young age and in 1770, at the age of 14, he studied art in Newport with Scottish painter Cosmo Alexander. Stuart created the painting of Dr. Hunter\’s Spaniels under Alexander\’s direction. With Alexander, he made a tour of the South and a journey to Edinburgh, where Alexander died in 1772.  Stuart stayed in poverty-stricken Scotland for approximately a year before ultimately managing to return to America by working as a sailor. He painted a few portraits there in a challenging fashion. Stuart sailed for London, where he remained from 1775 to 1787, while his family, who were loyal to the Tories, escaped to Nova Scotia as the Revolutionary War loomed.

\"\" The Skater: A portrait of Sir William Grant

He relocated to London at an early age to study under Benjamin West, where he quickly established a good image as a talented portraitist. At the age of 26, Stuart achieved success with the Royal Academy exhibition of The Skater, which inspired him to leave West\’s studio and pursue solo work. His highly original composition represents Grant skating on the Serpentine River, with his arms confidently crossed and his feet in a graceful glide. Gilbert Stuart created a number of iconic paintings of George Washington, each of which sparked a desire for more copies and kept Stuart busy and well-paid for a considerable amount of time. The portrait of George Washington, The Athenaeum, which was painted in 1796, is the most well-known and famous of these portraits and is currently featured on the $1 bill in the United States. Stuart preserved the original painting in order to create 130 copies of The Athenaeum, but he never finished it. He just painted Washington\’s face.

\"\" Portrait of Mrs. Richard Yates

Vermilion, lake, and a few other hues were the only ones Stuart used, but he had unique blends for reflections and shadows. Because he was careful to minimize muddiness, the colours were not mixed together, but there were slight variations in tone. The transparency of the colours allowed the opaque underpainting to shine through, which brilliantly portrayed the texture of flesh. Stuart once said that flesh \”is like no other substance under heaven. It has all the gaiety of a silk mercer\’s shop without its gaudiness of gloss, and all the soberness of old mahogany without its sadness.\” The incomplete portrait of Mrs. Perez Morton showcases his technique. Here, the whole canvas has been developed. The arms and veil, however, remain in their sketched-in forms while the face is finished down to its transparent colours.

\"\" A painting by Gilbert Stuart

Stuart passed away at the age of 72 in Boston. From-for debts of his wife and daughter are unable to buy him a place in the cemetery, and Stewart was buried in Boston common in a common grave. The family was preparing to relocate the artist\’s remains to Newport ten years after the financial shocks ended, but they cannot identify them. Gilbert Stuart is currently regarded as a key figure in American painting. The most famous museums in the United States include his works in their collections. His birthplace was preserved and converted into a museum in 1930.

\"\" George Washington (Lansdowne portrait) 1796.


  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gilbert_Stuart
  2. https://www.gilbert-stuart.org/biography.html
  3. http://www.visual-arts-cork.com/famous-artists/gilbert-stuart.htm

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