Portrait of George Washington
Gilbert Stuart, American, Portrait of George Washington, ca. 1820, Oil on panel; 66.7 x 53.3 cm (26 3/16 x 21 inches), Public Subscription Fund 22.220
Rhode Island native Gilbert Stuart painted three distinct heads of George Washington from life, including the so-called Athenaeum portrait. Stuart painted the earliest, unfinished version of this well-known left-facing likeness in Philadelphia in 1796; it is now in the collection of the Boston Athenaeum. Stuart brought the portrait to Boston and used it as a source for various copies he made over the next thirty years. RISD’s version was created for Jonathan Mason (1756 - 1831), who served for many years in the Massachusetts Congress and United States Senate. In this sympathetic depiction, Washington’s face is somewhat softened and rounded, the bow that binds his hair is simplified, and his coat and shirt ruffle are loosely rendered.