Abigail Smith Adams (Mrs. John Adams)
Abigail Smith Adams (Mrs. John Adams), 1800/1815, oil on canvas by Gilbert Stuart
Mrs. John Adams felt that "if we mean to have heroes, statesmen and philosophers, we should have learned women." Stuart's portrait, begun when the first lady was fifty-six, captures the patrician beauty of her straight nose and arched brows. The forthright painting also leaves little doubt about the force of character, intellect, and principles of this daughter of a Massachusetts minister.
This likeness was Stuart's only completed picture of Abigail Smith Adams. It and its companion piece of her husband, John Adams, were started in 1800 but not delivered until 1815. The Adams' eldest son and the future sixth president, John Quincy Adams, politely stated his family's attitude toward the artist's procrastination: "Mr. Stuart thinks it the prerogative of genius to disdain the performance of his engagements."