“The Skater” by Gilbert Stuart
“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 are the darker winter clouds over London.
In 1775 Gilbert Stuart had left his home in the United States for London, and by 1777 he was apprenticed there to Benjamin West, another American painter in 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.
On his first sitting for the portrait, Grant remarked that
“on account of the excessive coldness of the weather … the day was better suited for skating than sitting for one’s portrait.”
Soon Stuart and his patron left for the Serpentine in Hyde Park, where the two men started skating. Grant engaged in a series of skating maneuvers that attracted an admiring crowd.
Upon their return to the studio, Stuart suggested a composition inspired by their venture on the ice.
Stuart conceived the idea of portraying his subject on ice skates in a winter landscape, with the towers of Westminster Abbey far in the distance. Grant consented, and Stuart subsequently painted his first full-length format portrait.
At the Royal Academy exhibition of 1782, the painting was immediately recognized for its originality. The image of skating and vigorous movement had no precedent in Britain’s tradition of life-size society portraiture.
Stuart’s five-year apprenticeship with West ended with this success, and he moved his studio from a room in West’s house to an independent studio space.
Stuart later said that he had been
“suddenly lifted into fame by a single picture.”
The Skater may have influenced a later painting, “The Skating Minister,” considered a Scottish art masterpiece.
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.
- Title: The Skater (Portrait of William Grant)
- Artist: Gilbert Stuart
- Year: 1782
- Medium: Oil on canvas
- Dimensions 245.5 cm × 147.4 cm (96.7 in × 58.0 in)
- Museum: National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
- Name: Gilbert Charles Stewart
- Born: 1755 – Saunderstown, Rhode Island Colony, British America
- Died: 1828 (aged 72) – Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.
- Nationality: American
- Notable works:
Gilbert Stuart Portraits
A Virtual Tour of the National Gallery of Art
- “Ginevra de’ Benci” by Leonardo da Vinci
- “A Young Girl Reading” by Jean-Honoré Fragonard
- “Small Cowper Madonna” by Raphael
- “The Alba Madonna” by Raphael
- “Nude on a Divan” by Amedeo Modigliani
- “Nude on a Blue Cushion” by Amedeo Modigliani
- “Saint Jerome” by El Greco
- “The Houses of Parliament, Sunset” by Claude Monet (National Gallery of Art, DC)
- “Breezing Up (A Fair Wind)” by Winslow Homer
- “Madame Moitessier” by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres
- Adrienne (Woman with Bangs) by Amedeo Modigliani
- “Watson and the Shark” by John Singleton Copley
- “The Emperor Napoleon in His Study at the Tuileries” by Jacques-Louis David
Gilbert Stuart Paintings
- “The Boating Party” by Mary Cassatt
- “Interior of the Pantheon, Rome” by Giovanni Paolo Panini
- Marcelle Lender Dancing the Bolero in “Chilpéric” by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec
- “Quadrille at the Moulin Rouge” by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec
- “A Dutch Courtyard” by Pieter de Hooch
- “The Mother and Sister of the Artist” by Berthe Morisot
- “New York” by George Bellows
- Self-Portrait by John Singleton Copley
- “Self-Portrait” by Benjamin West
- “Symphony in White, No. 1″ by James Abbott McNeill Whistler
- A Prince of Saxony by Lucas Cranach the Elder
“The Skater “by Gilbert Stuart
- A Princess of Saxony by Lucas Cranach the Elder
- “Skiffs on the Yerres” by Gustave Caillebotte
- “The Niccolini-Cowper Madonna” by Raphael
- “The Equatorial Jungle” by Henri Rousseau
- Masterpieces of the National Gallery of Art
- “Venus and Adonis” by Titian
- “Waterloo Bridge” by Claude Monet
- “Christ at the Sea of Galilee” by Circle of Tintoretto
- “Both Members of This Club” by George Bellows
- “Club Night” by George Bellows
- “Farmhouse in Provence” by Vincent van Gogh
- “Girl in White” by Vincent van Gogh
- “Street in Venice” by John Singer Sargent
- “Woman with a Parasol – Madame Monet and Her Son” by Claude Monet
- “A Lady Writing a Letter” by Johannes Vermeer
- “Tale of Creation” – “Genesis II” by Franz Marc
“Happiness and moral duty are inseparably connected.”
– George Washington
Photo Credit: 1)Gilbert Stuart [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons