"I am so hackneyed to the touches of the painters pencil, that I am now altogether at their beck ... no dray moves more readily to the Thill, than I do to the Painters Chair." - George Washington, 16, 1785
When George Washington was born, the New World had virtually no artists. Over the course of his life, a cultural transformation would occur. Virtually everyone regarded Washington as America's indispensable man, and the early painters and sculptors were no exception. Hugh Howard surveys the founding fathers of American painting through their portraits of Washington. Charles Willson Peale was the comrade-in-arms, John Trumbull the aristocrat, Benjamin West the mentor, and Gilbert Stuart the brilliant wastrel. Their images of Washington fed an immense popular appetite that has never faded, Stuart's image endures today on the $1 bill. The Painter's Chair is an eloquent narrative of how America's first painters toiled to create an art worthy of the new republic, and the hero whom they turned into an icon.
Patron of the arts is not the first association one makes with George Washington, but Howard elegantly makes the case that the founder of the nation also helped establish America s art. Though architecture, not painting, was Washington s preferred art, America s first prominent artists painted him: Charles Willson Peale, John Trumbull, Benjamin West and Gilbert Stuart, the most distinguished American painter of the period. Washington, who Howard argues was easier to see and admire than to understand, is subtly revealed in a narrative that is precisely paced and elegantly composed. Howard (Dr. Kimball and Mr. Jefferson) illuminates Washington as an eminent patron of emerging American artists, who fostered nothing less than the birth of American painting. He also insightfully documents how Washington s evolving public image and often inscrutable character were diversely revealed by some of the most eminent visual artists of the 18th century, many of whose images propelled Washington s iconic status. This perspective will interest scholars of Washington and of early American art, as well as general readers seeking a refreshing angle on Washington and art in America. 8 pages of color photos.