Gilbert Stuart (1755-1828) was an American painter renowned for his portraits, particularly his iconic portrait of George Washington, which is featured on the United States one-dollar bill. He was born in North Kingston, Rhode Island, and showed an early talent for art.
Stuart received his initial training in Newport, Rhode Island, and later traveled to London in 1775 to study under renowned Scottish portraitist Benjamin West. During his time in London, he gained recognition for his portrait paintings and developed his distinctive style.
In 1793, Stuart returned to the United States and established himself as a leading portrait painter in Philadelphia and later in Washington, D.C. His studio became a hub for influential figures of the time, and he painted portraits of many prominent individuals, including politicians, military leaders, and intellectuals.
Stuart’s most famous work is the unfinished portrait of George Washington, known as the “Athenaeum Portrait” or the “Lansdowne Portrait.” This iconic image has become one of the most recognizable depictions of the first U.S. president. Stuart painted multiple versions of Washington’s portrait, which helped establish his reputation as a master portraitist.
Throughout his career, Stuart’s portraits were highly sought after, and he painted many notable figures, including Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and James Madison. His style was characterized by a focus on capturing the sitter’s character and personality, often through expressive and detailed renditions of the face.
Despite his success as a portrait painter, Stuart struggled with financial stability throughout his life. He frequently moved between cities and relied on patrons for support. Nevertheless, his contributions to American portraiture and his depiction of George Washington have left a lasting impact on the country’s artistic legacy.
Gilbert Stuart’s work can be found in numerous museums and galleries, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the National Gallery of Art. His portraits continue to be celebrated for their skillful execution and portrayal of important historical figures.