The portraits in our library reflect a wide range of personalities that shaped the life and times of early America. Luminaries from George Washington to Pocahontas to Patrick Henry.
By the mid-1700's the portrait was virtually the only art form in use by America's painters. Portraiture was in great demand in the colonies and was sufficient to support a small number of artists.
The two leading portrait artists were Gilbert Stuart and John Singleton Copley.
Copley painted both the young and the aged but emphasized setting to convey the desired mood. His style was straightforward and realistic, creating portraits of great strength. Among his many 'subjects' were portraits of John Hancock, Samuel Adams, John Adams and countless lords and ladies of the era.
George Washington personally posed for three portraits with Gilbert Stuart.
Gilbert's third painting of Washington was commissioned by Martha Washington. It became the most famous of the three, the standard, the accepted and true likeness of Washington. Stuart himself called this painting his hundred-dollar bill.....whenever he needed money he made a copy and always found a ready buyer. Toward the end of his life he could copy at least two of these portraits a day.
John Quincy Adams
James Fenimore Cooper
Gen. Francis Marion (The Swamp Fox)
Sir Walter Raleigh
Capt. John Smith
Arthur St. Clair
Baron Von Steuben
Mary Ball Washington (GW's mother)
Gen. "Mad Anthony" Wayne
John Winthrop (Gov of Conn)
John Winthrop (Gov of Mass)