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Landscape Paintings Owned by George Washington on View at National Gallery of Art

Mon, 08/12/2013

For Immediate Release
August 12, 2013
Digital images available

Media Contacts:
Mount Vernon:

Melissa Wood (703) 799-5203
mwood@mountvernon.org

National Gallery of Art:
Anabeth Guthrie (202) 842-6353
a-guthrie@nga.gov

 

Landscape Paintings Owned by George Washington on View at National Gallery of Art

Through January 2, 2014

 

MOUNT VERNON, VA – After more than half a century of delighting millions of visitors touring George Washington’s mansion, two of the first president’s landscape paintings by British artist William Winstanley, are on view at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. Washington’s two landscapes are on view through January 2, 2014, in the West Building of the National Gallery of Art adjacent to the Kaufman Collection. Purchased by Washington in 1793, these images of the Hudson River were first displayed inside the president’s house in Philadelphia and then brought to Mount Vernon upon Washington’s retirement from the presidency.
 
“We are thrilled to collaborate with the National Gallery of Art, to make these significant early American landscape paintings available to new audiences, outside Mount Vernon,” said Mount Vernon’s curator, Susan P. Schoelwer. “For the next few months, art lovers have an unprecedented opportunity to admire these two landscapes in a gallery setting, offering fresh perspectives on George Washington and the emergence of landscape art in America.”

The first president acquired the two landscapes from William Winstanley, paying the English immigrant artist 30 guineas or $140 on April 6, 1793. In a letter written at Philadelphia three days later, Alexander Hamilton commented on seeing the canvases in the president’s house, “There are two views of the situations on Hudson’s River painted by Mr Winstanly (sic), in the drawing Room of Mrs. Washington, which have great intrinsic merit…”

With their tranquil beauty and picturesque composition, Morning and Evening were fitting images for a room in which the Washingtons received official visitors. Identified as views along the Hudson River, the luminous canvases proudly proclaimed the president’s passionate love of landscapes—both natural and cultivated—and his fervent belief that nation’s natural resources represented the key to its future greatness. 

At the time when the fine arts in America were still in their infancy, Washington established a distinctive collection.  During his term as president, he deliberately sought out landscape compositions, a marked departure from prevailing preferences for portraiture and history paintings (which were considered the most elevated genre). In addition to Winstanley’s Morning and Evening, he acquired a total of five other landscapes: two other river scenes by Winstanley; Moonlight, a romantic nocturnal scene by an unknown artist; and two views of the Potomac River, by another immigrant English artist, George Beck.

After Washington’s retirement from the Presidency, all seven of these paintings hung in his impressive “new room,” at Mount Vernon, making this space effectively the earliest gallery of landscape paintings in America. Not until nearly a generation later—with the art of Thomas Cole and the Hudson River School—would landscape art emerge as a popular genre in America.

Morning and Evening returned to Mount Vernon in 1940, after being passed down through several generations of Martha Washington’s descendants. Since that time they have hung over the doorways in Mount Vernon’s new room (or large dining room), together with four other landscape paintings that Washington also placed in the room. As part of a year-long restoration of the new room, both the canvases of Morning and Evening and their gilt, rococo-style frames (thought to be original) have recently been cleaned and conserved.

The paintings’ display in the West Building of the National Gallery of Art places them adjacent to the Kaufman Collection, which comprises one of the largest and most refined collections of early American furniture and decorative arts. The two landscapes Morning and Evening predate by decades the earliest American landscapes in the Gallery’s collection. Both paintings will return to Mount Vernon following the expiration of the temporary loan, where they will be reinstalled and on view for the unveiling of the restored large dining room, or what Washington referred to as his “new room,” in early 2014.

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About the National Gallery of Art


The National Gallery of Art and its Sculpture Garden are at all times free to the public. They are located on the National Mall between 3rd and 9th Streets at Constitution Avenue NW, and are open Monday through Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and Sunday from 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. The Gallery is closed on December 25 and January 1. With the exception of the atrium and library, the galleries in the East Building will be closing gradually beginning in July 2013 and will remain closed for approximately three years for Master Facilities Plan and renovations. For specific updates on gallery closings, visit www.nga.gov/renovation.

For information call (202) 737-4215 or visit the Gallery's Web site at www.nga.gov.

About George Washington’s Mount Vernon

Since 1860, over 80 million visitors have made George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate & Gardens the most popular historic home in America.  Through thought-provoking tours, entertaining events, and stimulating educational programs on the Estate and in classrooms across the nation, Mount Vernon strives to preserve George Washington’s place in history as “First in War, First in Peace, and First in the Hearts of His Countrymen.”  Mount Vernon is owned and operated by the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association, America’s oldest national preservation organization, founded in 1853.  A picturesque drive to the southern end of the scenic George Washington Memorial Parkway, Mount Vernon is located just 16 miles from the nation’s capital. 

Hours of operation: April-August, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.; March, September, October, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; November – February, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.  Regular admission rates: adults, $17; senior citizens, $16; children age 6-11, when accompanied by an adult, $8; and children under age 5, FREE.  Admission fees, restaurant and retail proceeds, along with private donations, support the operation and restoration of Mount Vernon.

Events, programs, and activities are subject to change.
Public Information: 703-780-2000; 703-799-8697 (TDD); http://www.MountVernon.org