This painting is one of a group of views of Mount Vernon executed by Russell Smith, many featuring the old or new tomb. Washington’s remains had been transferred to the new tomb in 1831, but the old tomb remained an important pilgrimage site, even as it began to fall into disrepair. The artist visited Mount Vernon in the summer of 1839, and produced a related view of the old tomb at that time. This canvas is signed and dated 1836-1893, and represents a return to the subject of Mount Vernon late in the artist’s life. Smith’s painting refers to the progression of the old tomb into disrepair. The artist was interested in documenting nature, and wrote of producing a “portrait of a tree.” Here, he has emphasized the extremely prominent roots of the large tree at far right. In this way, we have Washington’s old tomb dissolving back into nature, and nature appearing profoundly alive.
A vertical landscape view of George Washington’s abandoned old tomb of pink brick, the entrance partially boarded over, and remnants of the paling fence at both left and right. A large tree with prominent visible roots is featured in the right foreground, with more trees, and blue sky and clouds at left background. The center foreground is a well-worn path, with several planks of wood and large palms or ferns.
It is framed in a reproduction gilt wood frame.
Completed in 1893, the work was possibly begun in 1836
Oil on canvas; gilt wood
Overall (H x W x D, framed): 21 1/4 in. × 17 3/4 in. × 2 3/8 in. (53.98 cm × 45.09 cm × 6.03 cm)
Overall (H x W, canvas): 15 1/2 in. × 12 in. (39.37 cm × 30.48 cm)
Purchased with funds provided by Mrs. Arthur Newton Pack, Vice Regent for Arizona, 1977
In black paint at lower left of canvas: â€œRS. 1836-1893.â€
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