George Washington is responsible for proclaiming ‘a day of public thanksgiving’ in 1789. I will discuss Gilbert Stuart’s portraits of the first president of the United States.
The "First Thanksgiving" of 1621 is generally agreed as the time when the pilgrims at Plymouth Plantations held a feast to celebrate a successful growing season.
As for the government recognizing the day as a secular holiday, there first was President George Washington. Then during the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln declared that Thanksgiving would be celebrated on the last Thursday in November, beginning with 1863. And that is how the day of Thanksgiving came about.
Gilbert Stuart, a portrait painter, was born in Rhode Island in 1755. Stuart made sketches directly on the canvas before applying paint. This was considered unusual for an artist at that time. Sketches have been found on some of his unfinished works.
His first portrait of George Washington painted from life was in 1795 and is called "The Vaughan Portrait." It resides at the National Gallery of Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.
The most famous and highly recognized portrait of George Washington by Gilbert Stuart is "The Athenaeum." It was painted from life in 1796 and remained unfinished. Stuart would use the image for the U.S. currency’s one-dollar bill. "The Athenaeum" can be seen (when on exhibit) at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, M.A. A copy of this painting hangs in the White House.
The third portrait of George Washington is "The Lansdowne Portrait" (1796). This painting also resides at the National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.
'The Lansdowne Portrait' painting
This is a portrait of the president standing, with objects in the room symbolic of war and peace. This portrait was amazingly saved when British soldiers burned down the White House during the War of 1812.
There is speculation as to who actually saved "The Lansdowne Portrait" from destruction. Was it First Lady Dolley Madison or a White House cook? You be the judge.
You can own your own art print of "George Washington" by Gilbert Stuart. Available here from Allposters.com.
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