Washington and the Painters


George Washington was one of the first global celebrities who was not a monarch.  How tiresome this was to him he revealed in a letter:

Dear Sir,

Your letter of the 20th Ulto was presented to me yesterday by Mr Williams—who as a professional man—may, or may not be for ought I know, a luminary of the first magnitude. But to be frank, and I hope you will not be displeased with me for being so—I am so heartily tired of the attendance which from one cause or another has been given ⟨to⟩ these kind of people, that it is now more than two years since I have resolved to sit no more for any of them and have adhered to it, except in instances where it has been requested by public bodies, or for a particular purpose (not of the Painters) and could not, without offence be refused.

I have been led to make this resolution for another reason besides the irksomeness of sitting, and the time I loose by it—which is, that these productions have in my estimation, been made use of as a sort of tax on individuals by being engraved (and that badly) and hawked about or advertised for Sale. With very great esteem & regard I am Dear Sir Yr most Obt & Affe Servt


Two years later in 1794 Washington did sit for the painter at the request of Masonic Lodge 22.  Washington is wearing Masonic regalia and looks quite unhappy:

I would never have guessed this was a portrait of Washington.  He usually had iron control of his emotions, but in this case he clearly is irked and he lets it show.  It is almost as if he is telling his old colleagues in the Masonic Lodge of Alexandria.  “You wanted my portrait?  Well, how do you like this?”  Washington accomplished a Herculean labor for this nation, and I have no doubt that he realized at all times that he could have been so much happier if fate had allowed him to remain a planter, living out a pleasant life at Mount Vernon.




Published in: on January 21, 2022 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Washington and the Painters  
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