Portrait of Martha Washington after Gilbert Stuart
Portrait of Martha Washington after Gilbert Stuart Portrait of Martha Washington after Gilbert Stuart Portrait of Martha Washington after Gilbert Stuart
Portrait of Martha Washington after Gilbert Stuart

Portrait of Martha Washington after Gilbert Stuart

  • This exceptional American portrait captures the visage of the first First Lady, Martha Washington
  • The work was composed after the famed Athenaeum portraits by Gilbert Stuart
  • Stuart's portrait of Martha is among the most recognizable images of early American culture
  • The present portrait is a stunning ode to its American artistic legacy
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Item No. 30-8851
$88,500
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description
After Gilbert Stuart
19th Century | American

Portrait of Martha Washington

Oil on canvas

Gilbert Stuart is among the most important and popular painters of early American portraits, and his Athenaeum portrait of President George Washington is perhaps the most recognizable work of American art ever made. While composing his famed portrait of the president, he also painted a portrait of the First Lady Martha Washington. Both were taken from life sittings and both were left unfinished - today they are jointly owned by the National Portrait Gallery and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. While Stuart later painted a number of reproductions from his original George Washington portrait, no other likeness of Martha Washington by Stuart is known to exist.

The present work, painted by an artist of the American School, bears a striking similarity to Stuart's original. Martha had commissioned the portraits from Stuart in 1796, though she never received the final works in spite of repeated requests to the artist. Stuart kept the portraits in order to produce his reproductions, which proved a lucrative business for the painter. After Stuart's death in 1828, the two paintings were purchased for the Boston Athenaeum, which owned them for more than 150 years and gave them their name. The Athenaeum portrait of George Washington eventually served as the basis for the president's likeness that appears on the one-dollar bill, cementing Stuart's legacy. The present portrait is a stunning ode to this American artistic tradition.

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 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 1820

Canvas: 30" high x 25" wide
Frame: 33 1/8" high x 28" wide
specifications
Period: 1816-1918
Origin:America
Subject:Portrait
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