Lines and Colors art blog

Gilbert Stuart, not just presidents

Gilbert Stuart
Today is the Fourth of July, “Independence Day” here in the U.S., a holiday on which we celebrate not having to pay undue deference to a little old lady who wears funny hats.

Amid carrying on the traditions of beer and barbecues handed down by our nation’s founding fathers, there is sometimes talk of the fathers themselves — the framers of our government and its basic documents, and when those guys are mentioned, out come the Gilbert Stuart portraits.

Stuart, as I explained in my previous post on him, was a premiere American portraitist, but his skills a painter are overshadowed by his “greatest hits” of presidential portraits, notably of “not so handsome” George Washington (above, top, with detail), as well as other key figures like John “I make George look good” Adams (third down) and Thomas “I can’t stick around to have my portrait finished” Jefferson (fourth down).

As interesting as these portraits can be, I think Stuart shines much more readily in his portraits of less well known figures like Matilda Stoughton de Jaudenes (third and fourth from the bottom) and Marianne Ashley Walker (bottom two), in which you can see his economical, painterly brushwork and much more lively portrayals than those of the stiffly posed politicians.

(I don’t know if Walker had the hots for Stuart, or he just wished she did, or what, but that’s some smoldering look he captured there.)

The images above are from two excellent sources of high resolution images of Stuart’s work, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Google Art Project. For more, see my previous post on Gilbert Stuart, which lists additional resources.


4 responses to “Gilbert Stuart, not just presidents”

  1. Oh my dear US nieghbor….I may be mistaken about your referrance to “pay undue deference to a little old lady who wears funny hats” as being directed to your northern nieghbor but Canada is an INDEPENDANT country from Britian and we DO NOT have the Queen as our head-of-state. We have a Prime Minister who commands the same respect your President does. Your somewhat sarcastic remark is incorrect.I enjoy your blog immensly, Mr. Parker, but would like to point out that before you post something on a blog so widely read, you check your facts.
    Always a fan
    Marla Thirsk PROUD Canadian and very friendly nieghbor to the US.

    1. And it was such a nice, dry line…

      Thanks, Marla. Actually, I wasn’t thinking of Canada, just how fundamentally silly the concept of monarchy is, and what our fate may have been had we not gotten out from under British rule (thanks largely to Ben Franklin convincing the French to hassle the British over here as well as over there). I don’t necessarily assume the 13 colonies down here would have achieved the same status as Canada in the subsequent years, had we not achieved independence at the time, but your point is well taken.

      Actually, my ex-wife’s family was from Ontario, and at one time I used to visit regularly and have quite a soft spot for Canada. (I remember being impressed with the AGO in Toronto, though I haven’t been there for some time).

  2. I wonder about how they make such a beautiful skin color. Specially the grey area side by side with pink color. What is the color actually in the grey area?. To me it is look like green. Is it correct?

    1. My best guess would be a terre verte (green earth) underpainting, allowed to show through in places.