Gilbert Charles Stuart began as a portrait painter in the American colonies. Gilbert Stuart was born in Saunderstown, Rhode Island in 1755. In 1770, Stuart met Scottish artist Cosmo Alexander, who became his first instructor. He was able to travel to London for further training under Benjamin West. Stuart learned the painterly brushwork in the style of the Grand Manner, which was the favored style of Sir Joshua Reynolds. Reynolds was the leading portraitist of the day.
He opened successful portrait studio in London. His had extravagant tastes and this left him with large debts and eventually he had to escape to New York to avoid debtors’ prison in 1792. Gilbert C. Stuart is perhaps known best for his idealized portraits of George Washington, which have come to represent the personification of Washington. The engraving that appears on the one-dollar bill was based on his painting.
Gilbert C. Stuart produced portraits of over 1,000 people, including the first six Presidents of the United States. His work can be found in museums including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Frick Collection in New York City, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., the National Portrait Gallery, London, Worcester Art Museum in Massachusetts, and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.