Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Stuart, Gilbert (1755-1828)

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STUART, GILBERT (1755–1828), portrait-painter, was born in Narragansett, Rhode Island, U.S.A., on 3 Dec. 1755. He received some instruction from Cosmo Alexander, a Scottish portrait-painter then practising in Rhode Island, and accompanied him to Scotland in 1772. The death of his master left him to shift for himself, and after struggling awhile at the university of Glasgow he returned home. In 1775 he came to England, and found a friend and a master in Benjamin West [q. v.] In 1785 he set up a studio of his own, and attained considerable and deserved success as a portrait-painter. He returned to America in 1792, and after working for two years in New York, Philadelphia, and Washington, he settled at Boston for the rest of his life. He exhibited thirteen portraits at the Royal Academy (1777–1785). The bulk of his work is in America—at Boston, New York, Cambridge, Harvard, Philadelphia, Washington, Baltimore, and other places. He painted most of the leading Americans of his time, including the presidents, Washington (several times), John Adams, and Jefferson. He is considered the painter of Washington par excellence. In the National Portrait Gallery there are portraits by Stuart of Benjamin West (two), William Woollett and John Hall (the engravers), John Philip Kemble, and George Washington. Lord Inchiquin has his portrait of Sir Joshua Reynolds. His portraits of John Singleton Copley, the painter, and Sir Edward Thornton are still in the possession of their respective families. One of his finest works is W. Grant of Congalton skating in St. James's Park, in the collection of Lord Charles Pelham-Clinton. A portrait of Washington, painted for the Marquis of Lansdowne, was engraved by James Heath [q. v.] To his English portraits belong also those of Alderman Boydell and Dr. Fothergill. He died at Boston on 27 July 1828.

[Bryan's Dict., ed. Armstrong; Cyclopædia of Painters and Paintings; Mason's Life and Works of Gilbert Stuart, New York, 1879.]

C. M.