When you hear the names George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and John Adams, what images come to mind? Although he’s not a household name for most, the paintings of Gilbert Stuart are the very “pictures” our minds conjure up, and often in startling detail! So while many don’t know him by name, most of us are quite familiar with his body of work.
Gilbert Stuart, born on this day in 1755, has played an integral role in helping put “faces” to our republic’s grandest figures.
Anyone who has ever opened a history book has likely seen his famous portrait of George Washington. Across the oceans and through the land of the free, the world envisions George Washington through Stuart’s painting.
While many are familiar with this particular portrait, Stuart rendered a grand total of 12 finished illustrations of Washington – not to mention the host of unfinished drafts that have since been auctioned off.
There’s something special about the passionate work of Stuart, someone who had the honor of living alongside Washington and many other authors of our liberty. Just imagine the incomprehensible and breathtaking experience it would have been to have the greatest leader America has ever known held “captive” by you as you spend hour upon hour attempting to capture his “larger than life” persona for posterity. Who knows what insight into the mind of George Washington Stuart may have gained during his portrait sittings? The mere contemplation of it is pure manna for both artists and historians.
It’s indeed a blessing that we find ourselves the benefactors of Gilbert Stuart’s masterpieces. And even today are able, through him, to capture a coveted glimpse into the very souls who endeavored to ensure that we would enjoy the fruits of their labors long after they were gone from this earthly realm.