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collections > permanent collection > paintings >GILBERT STUART
 
Gilbert Stuart
(American, 1755-1828)
Portrait of Captain Joseph Anthony, n.d., c. 1795
Oil on canvas, 28 1/2” x 23 1/2”
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Thomas C. Sullivan (2010.105)

 

Gilbert Stuart was the preeminent portraitist of the Early Republic.  Best known for his portraits of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and other American notables, Stuart brought psychological depth to the stylish technique of Sir Joshua Reynolds and other leading British painters.  In his portrait of Captain Joseph Anthony, the firm set of the mouth suggests republican sobriety, while ruddy cheeks and wrinkles at the corners of the eye belie an underlying good humor.  The subtle sheen of silk in Anthony’s coat and waistcoat reflects his prosperity, and is effectively set off against the painting’s dark backdrop.  Anthony, a Philadelphia merchant, was also the artist’s uncle, and Stuart painted this likeness around the time he completed his famous portrait of Washington, now in the National Gallery of Art.

 

Born in North Kingston, Rhode Island, Stuart apprenticed with traveling Scottish artist, Cosmo Alexander.  Following him to the southern colonies and then to the British Isles, Stuart returned to America briefly following Alexander’s death in 1772.  Back in Britain by the beginning of the Revolutionary War, Stuart became an assistant in the London studio of fellow American, Benjamin West.  His talent soon became apparent, and by 1782, he had begun to work on his own.  For several years he enjoyed considerable success, but in order to escape mounting debts, he was forced to leave England for Ireland.  There the same pattern repeated itself, and Stuart ultimately fled Ireland for the United States.  Settling in New York in 1792, the artist eventually moved to the new capital of Philadelphia.  His 1795 portrait of George Washington, the first of several, earned high acclaim and numerous commissions among the nation’s power elite.  Demand for Stuart’s services continued unabated for the rest of his career, but old patterns of reckless living continued to hamper his progress.  In later years, Stuart worked in Boston, where he died in 1828.