Gilbert Stuart: Views of George Washington

George Washington (The Athenaeum Portrait), 1796 i i

hide captionGeorge Washington (The Athenaeum Portrait), 1796

National Gallery of Art
George Washington (The Athenaeum Portrait), 1796

George Washington (The Athenaeum Portrait), 1796

National Gallery of Art
George Washington (The Gibbs-Channing-Avery Portrait), begun 1795, completion date unknown i i

hide captionGeorge Washington (The Gibbs-Channing-Avery Portrait), begun 1795, completion date unknown

National Gallery of Art
George Washington (The Gibbs-Channing-Avery Portrait), begun 1795, completion date unknown

George Washington (The Gibbs-Channing-Avery Portrait), begun 1795, completion date unknown

National Gallery of Art
Self-Portrait, 1778 i i

hide captionGilbert Stuart's self-portrait, painted in 1778

National Gallery of Art
Self-Portrait, 1778

Gilbert Stuart's self-portrait, painted in 1778

National Gallery of Art

We all carry a portrait of George Washington with us — on the dollar bill. American artist Gilbert Stuart painted the portrait from which the likeness on the dollar is taken.

From now until the end of July, you can see the original of that famous portrait, and others, at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., where the National Portrait Gallery has gathered a group of Stuart portraits. The exhibit includes 13 portraits of Washington, as well as depictions of John Adams, James Madison and Thomas Jefferson.

Whatever he may have looked like in reality, our idea of George Washington is the one preserved by Stuart in a portrait called the "Athenaeum Portrait," named after the museum in Boston where the picture was sent after Stuart died.

Linda Wertheimer talks with historian Gordon Wood of Brown University and other experts about the Washington we see in these paintings.

This story was produced by NPR's Gisele Grayson.

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