Gilbert Stuart I

Program Information

Series: A Moment in Time
Duration: 00:03:48
Year Produced: 2010
Description:

Gilbert Stuart's portrait of George Washington that appears on the one-dollar bill was, ironically, an unfinished portrait. But through numerous reproductions, it has become an American icon.

For more information visit: http://amomentintime.com

Transcript

Lead: Gilbert Stuart's portrait of George Washington that appears on the one-dollar bill was, ironically, an unfinished portrait. But through numerous reproductions, it has become an American icon.

Intro: A Moment In Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: Born in 1755, Gilbert Charles Stuart grew up near Newport, Rhode Island. He demonstrated an early talent for drawing and, about the age of 14, he began his study under an itinerant Scottish portrait painter, Cosmo Alexander. Working as his assistant, Stuart accompanied Alexander through the southern colonies and then to Edinburgh. The untimely death of Cosmo Alexander left Gilbert Stuart stranded in Europe without funds. He worked his way back to America from London as a crewman on a collier.

Hostilities between Britain and her North American colonies were heating up in 1775, when 19-year-old Stuart returned to London. His father was a loyalist, and Gilbert saw his chances of a career as an artist were better in Europe. It was a struggle at first, but after five years as an apprentice to American painter Benjamin West, Stuart received his first public accolades. His portrait, The Skater (now hanging in the National Gallery of Art), received high praise at the Royal Academy in 1782. Stuart opened his own studio and began painting the wealthy and prominent of Europe's elite, including Kings George III and George IV of England and French King Louis XVI. With his high fees Stuart acquired expensive tastes, and with his extravagant lifestyle came debt. In 1787 he had to flee London to escape his creditors. He spent five years in Dublin--at least some of the time spent in debtors' prison, painting portraits to earn his release. In 1793 Stuart returned to America.

Next Time: The unfinished Washington.

Research assistance by Ann Homans Johnson. The producer of A Moment in Time is Steve Clark. At the University of Richmond, this is Dan Roberts.