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GILBERT STUART (1755-1828)
GILBERT STUART (1755-1828)
GILBERT STUART (1755-1828)
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GILBERT STUART (1755-1828)


GILBERT STUART (1755-1828)
oil on panel
27 x 21 1⁄2 in.
Painted circa 1820
George Douglas (1793-1861), Scotland and New York, possibly by purchase from the artist
William Proctor Douglas (1842-1919), New York, son
M. Knoedler & Co., New York, February-April 1913
Mr. and Mrs. Edward Stephen Harkness, New York, April 1913- December 1922
M. Knoedler & Co., New York, December 1922-January 1923
John Levy Galleries, New York, January 1923
Acquired from above, 1923
“List of Accessions, January 1-May 31, 1923,” Bulletin of the City Art Museum of St. Louis, vol. 8, no. 2⁄3 (April- June 1923), p. 34.
“Another Stuart Masterpiece Brought to Light by Museum,” Boston Herald, 8 July 1923, p. 69.
“A Portrait of George Washington by Gilbert Stuart,” Bulletin of the City Art Museum of St. Louis, vol. 8, no. 4 (October 1923), pp. 44-46.
Mantle Fielding, Gilbert Stuart's Portraits of George Washington (Philadelphia, 1923), p. 168, facing p. 226, no. 47.
Lawrence Park, Gilbert Stuart: An Illustrated Descriptive List of His Works, vol. 2 (New York, 1926), p. 871, no. 48.
M.R. Rogers, “Exhibition of Early American Portraiture: 1750-1850,” Supplement to the Bulletin of the City Art Museum of St. Louis, vol. 15 (November 1930), p. 9, no. 33.
The Frick Art Reference Library, ref. 121-20c4.
New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art (at the Douglas Mansion, West 14th Street), 1873-1879. 
Saint Louis, Missouri, Saint Louis Art Museum, Exhibition of Early American Portraiture: 1750-1850, November 1930. 

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Lot Essay

This rendition of the artist's Athenaeum portrait of George Washington displays the hallmarks of Stuart’s work during his later years in Boston. Painted from life in Philadelphia in 1796, the original unfinished portrait was retained by Stuart and used as the basis for a number of replicas, of which approximately 85 are known today. Here, the head is more round, the features softly delineated and the shirt ruffle sketchily rendered as compared to those from Stuart’s years in Philadelphia and Washington. Described by Dr. Ellen Miles, Curator Emerita for Paintings and Sculpture, National Portrait Gallery, these characteristics are seen in replicas painted by Stuart after his move to Boston in 1805 (Ellen Miles, catalogue entry, Gilbert Stuart (New York, 2004), p. 162).

Furthermore, the use of a wooden panel and its small size, was particularly favored by Stuart during his later years. Documented to 1819, an example at The Huntington (acc. no. 19.11) is a close parallel to the portrait offered here. Painted on wooden panels of almost identical size, both have similar modelling to the face, a rounded transition from the cheeks to chin and a white neck covering rendered with quickly applied horizontal brushstrokes. Particularly evident in the lighter hues of this portrait is the diagonal scoring of the panel. While in Stuart’s studio in 1825, the artist John Neagle observed Stuart’s techniques and later commented that the master artist either painted on canvases imported from London "or upon slightly coated panels, which to avoid smoothness, were frequently toothplaned to imitate the English twilled canvas, which he was particularly fond of. He disliked a slippery surface" (cited in Lance Mayer and Gay Myers, American Painters on Technique: The Colonial Period to 1860 (Getty Publications, 2011), p. 47).

As relayed in 1913 by William Proctor Douglas (1841-1919), the portrait was owned by his father, George Douglas (1793-1861), who inherited and, through his own mercantile pursuits, attained considerable wealth. Born in Scotland, George Douglas immigrated to New York as a young boy. His son noted that his father had many associations with artists and may have purchased this work directly from Stuart (M. Knoedler & Co., Sales Book 10 (February 1912-April 1916), available at www.getty.edu). While this cannot be proven, it is likely that Douglas acquired the painting if not from the artist, then relatively soon after Stuart’s death in 1828. An 1861 obituary notes that Douglas “had a fine and highly cultivated taste for art, and in his early life collected some very valuable pictures” but thereafter focused on philanthropy (“Mortuary Notice,” Evening Post, New York, February 1, 1862, p. 3). The portrait hung in the Douglas home on Park Place and Church Streets and was later moved to the family mansion on West 14th Street. This grand building may have been the residence of George Douglas’s brother, William Douglas (1794-1863), and it, along with the portrait, was later owned by their son and nephew, William Proctor Douglas, who inherited from both estates in the early 1860s. From 1873 to 1879, the mansion was the temporary home of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and this portrait of Washington was loaned by the younger Douglas to the Museum and exhibited alongside the Museum’s collections (William Andrews Loring, “The Home of the Museum in Fourteenth Street,” Bulletin of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, vol. II, no. 1 (January 1907), pp. 1-4; M. Knoedler & Co., Sales Book 10, op. cit.).

Owner of the America’s Cup-winning yacht Sappho and a key figure in the introduction of polo to America, William Proctor Douglas managed the family’s vast fortune, pursued his sporting interests and was a member of numerous clubs, including the Union Club and the New York Yacht Club. He married Adelaide Louisa Townsend (1853-1935) in 1879, but by the end of the century, the couple had separated; she was a long-standing mistress of the financier John Pierrepont Morgan (1837-1913) and built a mansion on 57th Street, while Douglas resided at 12 W. 76th Street where the portrait remained until purchased by M. Knoedler & Co. in 1913. The portrait then entered the collection of Edward Stephen Harkness (1874-1940), who had inherited a fortune from his father’s investment in Standard Oil. Harkness sold the portrait back to Knoedler in December 1922 and through the John Levy Gallery, the portrait was then sold to the City Art Museum of Saint Louis, now the Saint Louis Art Museum.

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