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Gilbert Stuart set the standard for future American painters. He is best known for his colorful style and vivid portraits of George Washington and other founding fathers. Gilbert, who grew up in Rhode Island, learned to paint from experienced artists. He moved to London as a young man and studied with Benjamin West, a respected artist. Gilbert's painting, The Skater, was so admired by the British Royal Academy of Arts that he opened his own studio in London.
Gilbert returned to the United States and was asked to paint a portrait of President George Washington, who posed for Gilbert in 1795. Gilbert made several paintings of the nation's first president. His unique style of decorative brushwork and brilliant colors made his paintings of Washington come alive. Gilbert painted many other distinguished Americans, including the first five presidents of the United States. Gilbert's devotion to painting left a legacy of more than 1,000 works.
Congress purchased one of Gilbert's paintings of George Washington for the White House in 1800. During the War of 1812, First Lady Dolley Madison rescued this painting before the British burned the White House in 1814. Today, this painting hangs in the East Room of the White House.
December 3, 1755
July 9, 1828
Taught by mentor Benjamin West in London
Great American Portrait Painter
North Kingston, Rhode Island
Esther De Berdt Reed
Mary Jane McLeod Bethune
Anne Sullivan Macy
Booker T. Washington
Laura Ingalls Wilder
Theodor Seuss Geisel
Elwyn Brooks White
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