||George Washington: Cincinnatus or Marcus Aurelius?
In Richmond, Virginia stand two important sculptural monuments representing George Washington: Jean Antoine Houdon’s George Washington (1789) and Thomas Crawford’s Virginia Washington Monument (1858-1869). Houdon’s represents George Washington as a man of peace with allegorical references to the famous Roman citizen/soldier/farmer Cincinnatus whereas Crawford’s equestrian monument represents Washington as a man of military might. The image of Washington has often been a cypher for contemporary American political currents. This presentation will explore the political and cultural currents that led to such different images of the Father of his Country.
Maurie McInnis is professor of Art History and vice provost for academic affairs at the University of Virginia. She has served as author or editor of numerous articles and four books, the most recent of which: Slaves Waiting for Sale: Abolitionist Art and the American Slave Trade (2011) was awarded the Charles C. Eldredge Book Prize from the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the Library of Virginia Literary Award for non-fiction.
||Gilbert Stuart’s Portraits of George Washington: Originals, Replicas and Copies
During Gilbert Stuart’s fifty-five years as a portrait painter, George Washington was his most important sitter. He painted Washington from life on three occasions in 1795 and 1796, during Washington’s second term as President. The portraits exemplify the three reasons that all portraits of Washington were created: on request from an ambitious artist; a private commission from family and close friends; and to honor the president in his public role. Stuart painted about 100 versions of his three portraits, and other artists made as many copies. This talk will discuss what these portraits tell us about Washington, about Stuart, and about the practice of portrait painting in late eighteenth century America.
Ellen Miles is Curator Emerita of the Department of Painting and Sculpture at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, where she was on the staff for almost 40 years. Her publications and exhibitions include American Colonial Portraits, 1700-1776; Saint-Memin and the Neoclassical Profile Portrait in America; George and Martha Washington: Portraits from The Presidential Years; and Capital Portraits; Treasures from Washington Private Collections.
||First in Art: George Washington as a Leading Patron of the Arts in America
In the 1790s, George Washington emerged as an avant-garde collector and patron of American art, developing an extensive collection of paintings and prints that elevated American subjects to the ranks of European masterworks. This talk will examine Washington’s distinctive vision as a patron and collector, vis à vis contemporaries such as Thomas Jefferson and William Hamilton of the Woodlands. Washington’s patronage of the arts aimed to advance American cultural maturity, if not independence, and was driven by his hopes for the country’s future. His appraisal of American landscapes as “grand objects” for painting was also prescient: a full generation would pass before Thomas Cole and the Hudson River School realized the potential he had first envisioned.
Amanda Isaac is the Associate Curator at Mount Vernon. Her recent publications include Take Note! George Washington the Reader (2013) and Ann Flower’s Sketchbook: Drawing, Needlework, and Women’s Artistry in Colonial Philadelphia (Winterthur Portfolio, 2007).
||Lunch at the Mount Vernon Inn Restaurant
||Baltimore’s Washington Monument and the Development of National Artistic Symbols in the New Republic
The first monument erected to honor the memory of George Washington was the Baltimore Washington Monument designed by architect Robert Mills (cornerstone laid July 4, 1815). While a new nation, in the late 18th and early 19th centuries questions remained regarding who would be the sponsors of cultural expressions and be responsible for the development of national artistic imagery. Led by a private board, and funded by a public lottery, for many years this project was championed by Baltimorean Robert Gilmor, Jr. (1774–1848), recognized as one of the most important art collectors and patrons before the Civil War. Gilmor’s many intersections with celebrating and documenting the life of the first President offer insights into the cultural formation of a new country.
Dr. Lance Humphries is an art and architectural historian whose work focuses in part on art collecting and patronage in the Early Republic. He is chair of the restoration committee of the Mount Vernon Place Conservancy which is restoring the Baltimore Washington Monument in preparation for its bicentennial in 2015.
||Stitched in Silk: Colorful Images for American Homes
The early years of the American republic coincided with the establishment of large numbers of female academies, and the proper education of future “republican mothers” was widely viewed as critical to successful self-government. Republican mothers were to ensure the nation’s future by instilling in their children civic virtue and love of liberty. Pictorial silk embroideries produced in female academies throughout the country imprinted these lessons on youthful hearts and minds, and after 1799, images of George Washington and Mount Vernon joined the repertoire of popular subjects. Proudly displayed in their makers’ homes, Washington embroideries offered a colorful alternative to mass produced prints and proclaimed a personal connection to the father of the nation.
Susan P. Schoelwer is Mount Vernon’s Robert H. Smith Senior Curator. She has edited or authored numerous publications on American history and art, including the forthcoming The General in the Garden: George Washington’s Landscape at Mount Vernon; “Mount Vernon’s New Room” (Magazine Antiques, March/April 2014); and Connecticut Needlework: Women, Art, and Family, 1740-1840 (2010).
Reframing Washington for Modern Times: The Twentieth Century and Beyond
In a time when heroes were as often “debunked” as venerated, George Washington was no exception. Still, twentieth-century artists continued to depict Washington in diverse, creative ways—often by reworking and parodying Emanuel Leutze’s iconic history painting, Washington Crossing the Delaware. Colonial Revival images of Washington proliferated in the decades leading up to the 1932 bicentennial of his birth. After World War II, successive artistic movements from Abstract Expressionism to Conceptualism influenced the portrayal of his life and deeds. Satire and humor, too, have entered into Washington’s visual depiction. Today’s Washington image may seem more fragmented—and less on a pedestal—than its counterpart 150 years ago, but his iconography remains no less integral to our national mythology.
Scott Casper is Dean of the College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences and Professor of History at University of Maryland, Baltimore County. He is the author of Sarah Johnson’s Mount Vernon: The Forgotten History of an American Shrine, among other books and articles.