Gilbert Stuart USA
12-3-1755 Saunderstown, USA - 7-9-1828 Boston, USABack to Artist IndexView Artists Paintings
Gilbert Stuart first began to show great promise as a painter. In 1770, Stuart made the acquaintance of Scottish artist Cosmo Alexander, a visitor of the colonies who made portraits of local patrons and who became a tutor to Stuart. Under the guidance of Alexander, Stuart painted the portrait Dr. Hunter's Spaniels, when he was fourteen years old.
In 1771 Gilbert Stuart moved to Scotland with Alexander to finish his studies; however, Alexander died in Edinburgh one year later. Stuart tried to maintain a living and pursue his painting career but to no avail, and so in 1773 he returned to Newport.
Stuart's prospects as a portraitist were jeopardized by the onset of the American Revolution and its social disruptions, Stuart departed for England in 1775. Unsuccessful at first in pursuit of his vocation, he then became a protege of Benjamin West, with whom he studied for the next six years. By 1782 Gilbert Stuart had met with success, largely due to acclaim for The Skater, a portrait of William Grant.
At one point, the prices for his pictures were exceeded only by those of renowned English artists Joshua Reynolds and Thomas Gainsborough. Despite his many commissions, however, Stuart was habitually neglectful of finances and was in danger of being sent to debtors' prison.
Leaving numerous unfinished paintings behind, Stuart ended his 18-year stay abroad in 1793, returning to the United States to settle briefly in New York City. In 1795 he moved to Germantown, Pennsylvania, where he opened a studio. It was here that he would gain not only a foothold in the art world, but lasting fame with pictures of many important Americans of the day.
Gilbert Stuart painted George Washington in a series of iconic portraits, each of them leading in turn to a demand for copies and keeping Stuart busy and highly paid for years. The most famous and celebrated of these likenesses, known as The Athenaeum, is currently portrayed on the United States one dollar bill. Stuart painted a total of 130 reproductions of The Athenaeum. However, Stuart never completed the original version; after finishing Washington's face, the artist kept the original version to make the copies. He sold up to 70 of his reproductions for a price of US$100 each, but the original portrait was left unfinished at the time of Gilbert Stuart's death in 1828. The painting was jointly purchased by the National Portrait Gallery and Museum of Fine Arts, Boston in 1980, and in late 2014 was on display in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.
Gilbert Stuart moved to Boston in 1805, continuing in critical acclaim and financial troubles. In 1824 he suffered a stroke, which left him partially paralyzed. Nevertheless, Stuart continued to paint for two years until his death. As Stuart left his family deeply in debt, his wife and daughters were unable to purchase a grave site. Stuart was therefore buried in an unmarked grave which was purchased cheaply from Benjamin Howland, a local carpenter. When Stuart's family recovered from their financial troubles roughly ten years later, they planned to move his body to a family cemetery in Newport, Rhode Island. However, since his family could not remember the exact location of Stuart's body, it was never moved.
His daughter, Jane Stuart, also a painter, sold many of Gilbert Stuart paintings and her replicas of them from her studios in Boston and Newport, Rhode Island.
Art Movement: Neoclassicism Art
Influences: Cosmo Alexander, Benjamin West
Traveled: Scotland, England, Ireland