Work of Art: George Washington (1732–1799)
Rembrandt Peale
George Washington (1732–1799)
circa 1855
Oil on canvas
Gift of Mrs. Charles Lee Smith Sr., William Oliver Smith, Charles Lee Smith Jr., and Mrs. Joseph H. Hardison in memory of Dr. Charles Lee Smith Sr., 1956

The victorious struggle of the American Revolution gave the new United States its first national heroes. Artists were then faced with the challenge of finding a suitably “republican” way to commemorate the Founding Fathers and the statesmen who succeeded them. 

No artist served the cult of George Washington more than Rembrandt Peale. He painted his first portrait of the president when he was seventeen. Many years later he “assembled every Portrait, Bust, Medallion and Print of Washington,” synthesizing them all into an ideal likeness, the so-called “porthole” portrait. Instead of Napoleon, here was the gentleman-soldier, a latter-day Cincinnatus

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