Portrait of a Family

 
Artist
Creation date
Materials
oil on canvas
Dimensions
50 x 40 in. 58-3/4 x 49 in. (framed)
Credit line
Gift of Mrs. Herman C. Krannert
Accession number
74.99
Collection
Currently On View

Gilbert Stuart

Portrait of A Family, ca. 1783 - 1793

oil on canvas

50 x 40 in.

Gift of Mrs. Herman C. Krannert

 Learn More

Debt resulting from an inability to manage money kept Gilbert Stuart on the move much of his life.  Born in North Kingston, Rhode Island and raised in Newport, Stuart was taught by a local Scottish painter who took him to Scotland, but his mentor’s death forced Stuart back to America.  During the Revolutionary War, he returned to England to study with the American expatriate Benjamin West.  As success came, so did debt which forced Stuart to Dublin, Ireland and then to America, where he eventually became the most highly regarded portraitist of his day. A skillful master of his craft, Stuart painted directly on the canvas, without using any preliminary drawing. By the end of his career, Stuart had painted over a thousand portraits of important political figures.  One of his most famous portraits of George Washington was the “Athenaeum Head” currently on the dollar bill.

In this painting, the woman and children are posed against a drawn drape in the style of British portraiture.  The similarity of the colors used in the sash, chair, curtain and trim on the young boy’s jacket move the viewer’s eye around the canvas to encompass all the figures. The woman is wearing a simple, elegant, robe à l’anglaise, a gown favored by portrait painters of the period.  The woman’s hair is lightly powdered and fashionably styled in the coiffure à l'hérisson, or “hedgehog,” in which the hair was cut short in the front, frizzed to the ends and then brushed up away from the face. 

Reference

Carrie Rebora Barratt, Ellen Gross Miles.  Gilbert Stuart, New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2004.  ISBN-13: 978-1588391247

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Contemporary Fashion in Gilbert Stuart’s Portraits

Debt resulting from an inability to manage money kept Gilbert Stuart on the move much of his life. Born in North Kingston, Rhode Island, and raised in Newport, Stuart was taught by a local Scottish painter, who took him to Scotland. His mentor’s death forced Stuart to return to America. During the Revolutionary War, Stuart traveled to England to study with the American expatriate Benjamin West. As success came, so did debt, which forced Stuart to Dublin, Ireland, and then to America, where he eventually became the most highly regarded portraitist of his day. A skillful master of his craft, Stuart painted directly on the canvas without using any preliminary drawing. Stuart was prolific – he painted over one thousand portraits of important political figures. One of his most famous portraits of George Washington was the “Athenaeum Head,” which is currently on the dollar bill.

In this painting, the woman and children are posed against a drawn drape in the style of British portraiture. The similarity of the colors used in the sash, chair, curtain, and trim on the young boy’s jacket move the viewer’s eye around the canvas to encompass all the figures. The woman is wearing a simple, elegant robe à l’anglaise, a gown favored by portraitists of the period. The woman’s hair is lightly powdered and fashionably styled in the coiffure à l'hérisson, or “hedgehog,” in which the hair was cut short in the front, frizzed to the ends and then brushed up away from the face.

Barratt, Carrie Rebora and Ellen Gross Miles. Gilbert Stuart. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2004.