Portrait of Counsellor John Dunn by Gilbert Stuart
Portrait of Counsellor John Dunn by Gilbert Stuart Portrait of Counsellor John Dunn by Gilbert Stuart Portrait of Counsellor John Dunn by Gilbert Stuart
Portrait of Counsellor John Dunn by Gilbert Stuart

Portrait of Counsellor John Dunn by Gilbert Stuart

  • This exceptional early portrait was composed by the great American painter Gilbert Stuart
  • It captures the visage of Counsellor John Dunn, an Irish barrister and Member of Parliament
  • The work was the basis for two larger portraits which are now in important museum collections
  • One of the most important American painters of all time, Stuart's portraits are highly coveted
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Item No. 30-8856
$78,500
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Gilbert Stuart
1755-1828 | American

Portrait of Counsellor John Dunn

Oil on panel

Portrait of Counsellor John Dunn is a superlative painting by the celebrated early American portraitist Gilbert Stuart. Stuart is responsible for composing some of the most iconic images of our nation’s most historic figures, including the Athenaeum of 1796, the famed unfinished portrait of President George Washington that has served as the image on the one-dollar bill for over a century. His masterful handling of his subjects shaped the evolution of American portraiture, and his works continue to be placed among the most important and remarkable portraits ever painted.

The subject of the present example is the Irish barrister and Member of Parliament John Dunn, who had traveled to the United States around 1797. It was during this visit that he had this study and one other painted by Stuart. The artist subsequently used these early works to create two larger and complete portraits, which can now be found in the National Gallery of Art (Washington D.C.) and the Museum of Fine Arts (Boston).

Stuart showed great promise as an artist as early as the age of seven. In 1770, he became acquainted with Scottish portraitist Cosmo Alexander, a visitor of the colonies who became a tutor to Stuart. Stuart later moved to Scotland with Alexander in 1771 to finish his studies, though Alexander died in Edinburgh one year later. Stuart tried unsuccessfully to maintain a living and pursue his painting career, but was eventually forced to return to his native Rhode Island in 1773.

His ambitions to become a painter were jeopardized by the outbreak of the American Revolution. Seeking a means of escape, he decided to set sail for England in 1775. He quickly became a student of fellow American portraitist Benjamin West, whose tutelage was so great that Stuart was exhibiting at the Royal Academy within two years. He found popularity painting important British political figures, but was forced to flee the country due to the incredible debt he amassed, returning to America in 1793. In 1795, he moved to near Philadelphia, where he opened his famous studio. It was here that he would gain not only a foothold in the art world, but lasting eminence with his portraits of the most important Americans of the day.

Circa 1797

Canvas: 24" high x 17" wide
Frame: 27" high x 20" wide
specifications
Period: 1700-1815
Origin:America
Subject:Portrait
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