"A portrait is a picture in which there is just a tiny little something not quite right about the mouth." -- John Singer Sargent

Friday, April 15, 2016

George Washington

This portrait of 1785 George Washington by  Robert Edge Pine hangs in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC.
"George Washington, appointed commander-in-­chief of the Continental army, took command of a ragtag force of some 17,000 men in July 1775. He kept an army together for the next eight-and-a-half years, losing more battles than he won, but effec­tively ended the war with his victory at Yorktown in  October 1781. Mission accomplished, Washington resigned his military commission before Congress on December 23, 1783, and retired to Mount Vernon. Here, the man all artists yearned to portray posed in his Continental army uniform for English artist Robert Edge Pine and wryly observed, "I am so hackneyed to the touches of the Painter's pencil that I am now altogether at their beck, and sit like patience on a Monument.'" -- National Portrait Gallery
The National Humanities Center says this about the portrait:
"In 1783, two months after the signing of the Treaty of Paris that formally ended the American Revolution, 52-year-old George Washington resigned his commission as Commander in Chief and returned to his home at Mount Vernon, Virginia. Accustomed to sitting for portraits by this time, he agreed to pose for the English artist, Robert Edge Pine, who had recently settled in Philadelphia and spent nearly a month in at Mount Vernon in 1785.

In the portrait, Washington holds no hat or sword but firmly grasps a walking stick. He is surrounded by no accouterments of war or landscapes of victory, yet he is still clearly dominant and self-possessed. His demeanor conveys a fatigued but undiminished resilience. In early 1784 he wrote to a friend that 'I am just beginning to experience that ease, and freedom from public cares which, however desirable, takes some time to realize; . . . I feel now, however, as I conceive a wearied traveller must do, who, after treading many a painful step, with a heavy burden on his shoulders, is eased of the latter, having reached the Goal to which all the former were directed . . .' (Letter to Henry Knox, 20 Feb. 1784.)

Five years later Washington would return to public service as the first president of the United States." -- America In Class

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