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Gilbert Stuart – Virtual Tour

Gilbert Stuart

Gilbert Stuart – Virtual Tour

Gilbert Charles Stuart (1755 – 1828) was an American painter from Rhode Island Colony who is considered one of America’s foremost portraitists.

His best-known work is his George Washington portrait, begun in 1796, which is referred to as the Athenaeum Portrait.

Stuart produced portraits of more than 1,000 people, including the first six Presidents.

He was praised for his portraits’ vitality and naturalness, and his subjects reportedly found his company highly agreeable.

Virtual Tour of Gilbert Stuart

Highlights Tour of Gilbert Stuart

George Washington (The Athenaeum Portrait)

“George Washington” by Gilbert Stuart is a portrait of the United States’ first president and is also known as “The Athenaeum.” It is Stuart’s most celebrated and famous work.

Stuart is considered one of America’s foremost portraitists, and his best-known work is this unfinished portrait of George Washington.

Washington’s image has appeared on the United States one-dollar bill for more than a century and on various U.S. postage stamps.

Stuart painted George Washington in a series of portraits, each of them leading to a demand for copies that kept Stuart busy for years.

George Washington (Lansdowne portrait)

This portrait of “George Washington,” also known as the Lansdowne Portrait, is an iconic portrait of the United States’ first President.

The picture was painted from life and showed Washington at 64 years of age, renouncing a third term as U.S. President. Replicas of this original, painted by Stuart, are on display in the White House and some other national institutions.

This portrait was commissioned by one of the wealthiest men in the U.S., when, and was given to the British Prime Minister, who later became the first Marquess of Lansdowne.

It was a gift of appreciation, as he had supported the colonies’ independence in Parliament, and he succeeded in securing peace with America during his term as Prime Minister of Great Britain. In 2001, it was purchased for $20 million and returned to the U.S.

The Skater

“The Skater “by Gilbert Stuart depicts a man gliding effortlessly forward with arms crossed over his chest in typical eighteenth-century skating form.

The skater wears a dark elegant full-skirted coat, a white cravat, a gray fur lapel, tan glove, and silver buckles on the hat, breeches, and shoes. HIs stylish hat is tilted to show his face while his head is slightly lowered.

A low point of view enhances the dramatic impression. Behind the skater is a winter landscape composed of distant skaters, trees, and a far-off London skyline that includes the twoers of Westminster Abbey.

The Skater’s figure divides the canvas into halves. To the right, a large bare tree dominates the composition with a few stationary figures. While the left side, the distant skaters are depicted in motion, as is the darker winter clouds over London.

By 1781, Stuart had received encouraging reception of his work by the Royal Academy, and he was approached by William Grant, a well-placed young Scotsman, who wished to commission a full-length portrait.

Gilbert Stuart Self-Portrait at 24

Gilbert Stuart was born in 1755, in Saunderstown, in the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. He was the third child of a father who was a Scottish immigrant who owned the first snuff mill in America. His mother was a member of a prominent land-owning family in Rhode Island.

In 1770, Gilbert Stuart made the acquaintance of Scottish artist Cosmo Alexander, a visitor to the colonies who made portraits and became a tutor to Stuart.

In 1771, Stuart moved to Scotland with Alexander to finish his studies; however, Alexander died in Edinburgh one year later. Stuart tried to earn a living and pursue his painting career but was not successful, and he returned to Newport in 1773.

Stuart’s prospects as a portraitist were jeopardized by the American Revolution’s onset and its social disruptions. He was a Loyalist and departed for England in 1775, following the example set by John Singleton Copley.

He became a protégé of Benjamin West in 1777 and studied with him for the next six years. 

Gilbert Stuart Self-Portrait at 24

  • Title:                 Self-Portrait
  • Artist:               Gilbert Stuart
  • Year:                 1778
  • Medium:           Oil on canvas
  • Museum:          Redwood Library and Athenaeum

Gilbert Stuart

Gilbert Stuart Portraits

Tour of American Painters

Gilbert Stuart Paintings


“Happiness and moral duty are inseparably connected.”
– George Washington


Photo Credit: 1)Gilbert Stuart [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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