NYC - Metropolitan Museum of Art - Gilbert Stuart's George Washington
Gilbert Stuart (1755-1828)
Oil on canvas; 30 1/4 x 25 1/4 in. (76.8 x 64.1 cm)
This portrait of President Washington, called the Gibbs-Channing-Avery portrait, is one of eighteen similar works known as the Vaughan group. The first of this type, presumably painted from life and then copied in all the others, originally belonged to Samuel Vaughan, a London merchant living in Philadelphia and a close friend of Washington. This original portrait by Stuart, painted in 1795 according to Rembrandt Peale, was subsequently acquired by Joseph Harrison of Philadelphia. While in Harrison's collection, Rembrandt Peale copied it many times. The version now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, considered to be one of the earliest and best replicas, was sold to Stuart's close friend, Colonel George Gibbs, and subsequently descended in the Gibbs family.
Stuart's portraits of Washington are at once lifelike and iconic. This portrait was one of Stuart's first likenesses of the president and reveals the extent to which Washington was apotheosized even before his death in 1799. It is characterized by a looseness of flesh appropriate to his age. Yet Stuart also expertly modeled the skin tones with blue-gray shadows so that Washington's face seems marble-like. He appears authoritative and aristocratic, an impression further emphasized by the exaggerated eyebrows. The fantastic blen of hues in the background effectively completes the monumental image.
Rogers Fund, 1907 (07.160)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art's permanent collection contains more than two million works of art from around the world. It opened its doors on February 20, 1872, housed in a building located at 681 Fifth Avenue in New York City. Under their guidance of John Taylor Johnston and George Palmer Putnam, the Met's holdings, initially consisting of a Roman stone sarcophagus and 174 mostly European paintings, quickly outgrew the available space. In 1873, occasioned by the Met's purchase of the Cesnola Collection of Cypriot antiquities, the museum decamped from Fifth Avenue and took up residence at the Douglas Mansion on West 14th Street. However, these new accommodations were temporary; after negotiations with the city of New York, the Met acquired land on the east side of Central Park, where it built its permanent home, a red-brick Gothic Revival stone "mausoleum" designed by American architects Calvert Vaux and Jacob Wrey Mold. As of 2006, the Met measures almost a quarter mile long and occupies more than two million square feet, more than 20 times the size of the original 1880 building.
In 2007, the Metropolitan Museum of Art was ranked #17 on the AIA 150 America's Favorite Architecture list.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art was designated a landmark by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission in 1967. The interior was designated in 1977.
National Historic Register #86003556