The Many Faces of George Washington

First in war—first in peace—and first in the hearts of his countrymen, he was second to none in the humble and enduring scenes of private life; pious, just, humane, temperate, and sincere; uniform, dignified, and commanding, his example was as edifying to all around him as were the effects of that example lasting… His last scene comported with the whole tenor of his life—although in extreme pain, not a sigh, not a groan escaped him; and with undisturbed serenity he closed his well-spent life. Such was the man America has lost—such was the man for whom our nation mourns.
Eulogy by Congressman Henry “Light-Horse Harry” Lee

George Washington, Samuel King
George Washington, Samuel King, Oil on Canvas, Chaeau Blérancourt, Picardie, France

February 15, 2016 was Presidents’ Day in the United States.  Serendipitously, my page-a-day Gallery Calendar 2016 presented me with a handsome young George Washington, painted by Samuel King.  This prompted me do a mini-research project on the many faces of George Washington.

Today marks George Washington’s 284th birthday.  We will never know the exact detail of his face; but we have the ability to view him through eyes of artists.

Washington 1772
Charles Willson Peale [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Portrait of George Washington
Rembrandt Peale [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Gilbert Stuart Williamstown Portrait of George Washington
Gilbert Stuart [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
George Washington 1776
By Charles Willson Peale (Brooklyn Museum) [No restrictions], via Wikimedia Commons
General George Washington at Trenton by John Trumbull
John Trumbull [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

11 Comments

  1. Resa

    Fabulous assortment of images. He was a great man, and if he was from our modern world, there would be pictures galore. Many might own a selfie with George. However, back in the day, there were only artists to record people, places, things and life in general.
    Well done post, Rebecca…. as always!
    Oh, cheers to the artists, then & now!

    1. Clanmother

      The stories of the artists are as exciting as the subjects they paint. For example Charles Willson Peale (who was also into self-portraits) was prolific. He loved connecting with the Founding Fathers, the who’s-who of the 1770’s. James Varnum, Benjamin Franklin, John Hancodk, Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton, to name a few. But he excelled with it come to George Washington, who “sat” for him 7 times. In the end, he had nearly 60 portraits of George. According to Wikipedia “Washington at Princeton sold for $21.3 million in 2005. Now wouldn’t that have been a surprise to both Charles and George.

    1. Clanmother

      You have brought up an interesting point. Was George Washington physically fit or did he have a few extra pounds. According to the official Mount Vernon Website, George Washington was 6’2″ and 174 pounds in 1760 which was when he was around 28 years old. He was physically active most of his life, even riding a horse for several hours before his last illness. It is interesting to see how artists portrayed their subjects. We haven’t changed that much in our age. We just have better technology to erase to wrinkle lines (yes, I have figured out how to do this myself) Thank you for your comments – very much appreciated.

      http://www.mountvernon.org/george-washington/key-facts/

      1. Clanmother

        I agree!! I think it was Benjamin Franklin that said something about he’s bound to lead being the tallest man in the room. I think you would enjoy reading “His Excellency: George Washington” by Joseph J Ellis. It was a page turner.

  2. Gallivanta

    So interesting to see the different faces/stages …. perhaps you were inspired by your collection of family photos through the ages. GW does look a sincere and just person. One day, I hope people will look back at the faces of Barack Obama and realise he was a just and sincere President.

    1. Clanmother

      One thing about history, the stories remain long after we are gone. I always enjoyed Winston Churchill’s take on it; “History will be kind to me for I intend to write it.” I am going to look into the artists behind the paintings. For example, John Trumbull painted the famous “Declaration in Independence” which resides in the U.S. Capitol, Washington D.C. There are so many interesting connections in the art world.

      1. Clanmother

        One of my favourite quotes (and you know how much I love quotes) is by Colette.

        “What a wonderful life I’ve had! I only wish I’d realized it sooner.” Colette

        It is something that I think we can all identify with at some point in our lives!! 🙂 🙂 🙂

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