As a member of the President's household, Martha Washington's granddaughter Eleanor "Nelly" Parke Custis received an exceptional education that included drawing lessons with British landscape artist William Groombridge (1748-1811) in 1794. This watercolor of a frame house may be a product of those lessons. In the late eighteenth century, drawing masters promoted the idea of the picturesque, an aesthetic mode largely concerned with landscape that valued romantic subjects such as ruins and untamed nature. Nelly's depiction of the house, with its broken chimney and irregular additions, surrounded by the overgrown yard, is characteristic of the new sensibility.


Watercolor: Watercolor of a house in muted earth tones; three-quarter view of a two and a half story, five bay frame house with gambrel roof, a smaller gable roofed addition on the left side, a lean-to, and just beyond this, a separate one and a half story frame outbuilding; main house has three chimneys, two at the far gable end and one on the near gable end that has bricks missing from its upper left corner; a fourth chimney is visible on the roof of the addition; a large tree stands behind the home, two trees frame the right side, and a smaller bush frames the left; a post and rail fence in the foreground encloses the overgrown yard where the house sits.

Frame: Wood, cove molded, glazed frame nailed at corners with two nails on each side; gilded on top face only; stencil decoration applied in brown paint; cedar backing board cut with a circular saw; brown paper backing.


c. 1794




Watercolor, wove paper


Overall: 6 1/16 in. x 9 1/2 in. (15.39 cm x 24.13 cm)
Other (frame): 7 1/8 in. x 10 5/8 in. (18.11 cm x 27 cm)

Credit Line

Gift of Lyttleton B.P. Gould, Jr. and Family, 2002

Object Number


Colors (Beta)

Mount Vernon's object research is ongoing and information about this object is subject to change. For information on image use and reproductions, click here.
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