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News-Antique.com - May 28,2008 - May 28, 2008 -- Gilbert Stuart, the father of American portrait painting portrayed more than 1,000 famous people and their families on canvas. Stuart said he could tell a sitter’s personality just by studying their features.
George Washington was a good example.
When Stuart painted Washington in Philadelphia in 1796, he told Maj. Gen. Lee, whose likeness he was also painting, the president had a temper he kept tightly under wraps.
A few days later, Gen. Lee sat eating breakfast with Washington and wife Martha.
"I saw your portrait the other day—a capital likeness," said Lee, "but Stuart says you have a tremendous temper." "Upon my word," remarked Mrs. Washington, "Mr. Stuart takes a great deal upon himself, to make such a remark." "But stay, my dear lady," said Lee, "he added that the President had it under wonderful control."
With something close to a smile, Washington said, "He is right."
Stuart’s likeness of Washington is the classic portrayal of America’s first President. The ‘Athenaeum’ portrait, painted live, served as a model for countless copies.
It wasn’t easy humanizing the larger-than-life Washington. Stuart admitted having trouble painting the President’s face, especially his jaw, which was distorted by his new set of false teeth.
Washington’s likeness was in big demand. Few painters copied Stuart’s work better than his youngest daughter Jane. As his assistant, Jane was in a good position to understand her father’s style.
On Feb 22, Northeast Auctions offered a portrait of Washington by Jane Stuart in its Manchester, N.H., auction. The 30 by 25 inch oil on canvas sold for $194,000.
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