"George Washington" by Stuart Gilbert, 1803
Someone you will read about: Gilbert Stuart-an American painter
Gilbert Stuart was an irresponsible, temperamental rogue, but he was a talented artist as well.
In contrast, few people today know anything about Gilbert Stuart. Yet, Stuart, the painter of that conventional Washington portrait, was also famous in his own day. Fame is perhaps the only way in which subject and painter were similar, however.
Washington is remembered as honest and sober, worthy of trust and respect. Stuart, when he is remembered at all, is thought of somewhat differently. His speech was colorful, his habits reckless, his personal and professional life in constant turmoil. Regarded as perhaps the foremost portrait painter of his time, he did more than one thousand pictures and earned huge sums of money, but never enough to keep him out of debt.
Catherine Brass Yates, 1793
from the "wound" was the truth discovered. Gilbert and his friend, having stayed a little too long to watch the fun, were shortly found in bed still wearing their shoes and were punished for their cruel prank.
Between pranks, Gilbert also found time to draw pictures, often with a lump of clay or soft stone. These were so well done they attracted the attention of a local doctor who presented him with brushes and paints, and commissioned the first Gilbert Stuart painting of two dogs lying under a table. A professional painter, persuaded by the doctor, took the boy as a pupil, and so began his rise to the top of the first hill in a life which would prove to be a perpetual roller coaster ride.
Not long after his arrival back in America, his fortunes once more took an upward turn, and the handsome young portrait painter was caught up in a round of parties and social events. At the same time he was beginning to develop his own unique approach to painting, less artificial and elegant than the conventional style of the time. But the coming of the American Revolution put another temporary end to his hopes. Though Stuart later insisted he had really wanted to join General George Washington's Revolutionary Army, the fact is that in June or July of 1775 he boarded one of the last ships sailing for England.
Abagail Adams (Mrs. John Adams) 1800
After a gap of some months they turned up in Ireland. According to one story, told by Stuart himself, he was thrown into an Irish debtors' prison from which he painted his way out, earning the needed 110ney by painting portraits 0: the jailer and other local off;,'ills. From Ireland, he traveled back to the United States, leaving behind a great many portraits, none of them finished, for which he had been paid in advance.
Stuart was immediately and immensely popular in New York, as a painter if not always as a person. Sometimes charming, with a wealth of jokes and witty stories to tell, he also had a terrible temper and would attack anyone he suspected of criticizing him. Certain remarks of Washington's Secretary of War were so distasteful to him that he refused to finish the man's portrait, using it instead as a gate for his pigpen.
Famous as he was, Stuart's chance to surpass all his previous triumphs came with the painting of that portrait of George Washington. Whether or not we'd be right in regarding a Washington who didn't look like that picture as an impostor, people at the time found it a marvel. The demand for copies was so great that Stuart continued to dash them off, sometimes at the rate of one every two hours, almost until his death. Though later critics have declared these hasty copies to be of very poor quality, everyone wanted one and paid well for them, so that Stuart called them his "hundred dollar bills."
In order to make copies, of course, he needed to keep the original portrait, and so he did. Each time Mrs. Washington would call to inquire about her husband's picture, Stuart would insist it wasn't finished, pointing to that empty space that looked like a cloud, until finally the Washingtons themselves had to settle for one of the copies.
Thomas Jefferson, 1821
The man who had painted not only Washington but Presidents Adams, Jefferson and Madison, and so many others as well, and who lived a life of such achievement and turmoil, died at the age of seventy-two, deep in bitterness and, of course, in debt.
1. Gilbert Stuart's "hundred dollar bills" were _________________
2. According to the selection, which of the following statements is not true?
3. George Washington had _______________
4. Gilbert Stuart was _________________
5. This selection could be found in a book entitled __________
6. The people of the 1700's put up with Gilbert Stuart because he ____________
7. First, Stuart's teacher took him to study in Scotland. Then, his teacher died there. Next,_______________
8. The white spot on Washington's portrait remained there because _________
9. Another name for this selection could be _____________
10. This selection is mainly about ___________________
Gilbert Stuart Show from Youtube:
More Gilbert Stuart Paintings; from the National Gallerty of Art. Click on the link to view the painting, then click again on the painting to see it larger.
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