American Revolution Portraitist

Stuart's unfinished Washington portrait is used on the $1 bill.

Unfinished George Washington by Stuart (appears on $1 bill)

You may not realize it, but you see a portrait painted by Gilbert Stuart practically every day. His George Washington portrait has appeared on the U.S. one-dollar bill for more than 100 years! He’s probably the most famous portraitist of the American Revolution with a portfolio that includes most of the Founding Fathers – Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Monroe, Madison, etc.

According to Wikipedia, his works can be found today at art museums throughout the United States and Great Britain, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., the National Portrait Gallery in London, and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.

According to the National Gallery of Art, because he portrayed virtually all the notable men and women of the Federal period in the United States, Gilbert Stuart was declared the “Father of American Portraiture” by his contemporaries.

Famous portraits by Gilbert Stuart - Washington, Adams, Jefferson

Famous portraits by Stuart – Washington, Adams, Jefferson

To integrate music, below are mp3 clips from the album “Music of the American Revolution: The Birth of Liberty.” According to the New World Records website, this album “is a scholarly and well-programmed musical recreation of a defining moment in the nation’s history, mixing propaganda songs, psalmody, fife-and-drum music, and wind band music, the four types of music most prevalent and popular at the time.”

“The pieces on this disc have been chosen to illustrate some of the different kinds of music sung and played in the Colonies around the time of the Revolution. Sources for the music and texts of the pieces recorded are original wherever possible. No attempt has been made to recapture the untutored roughness with which much of the music was surely performed in its time. Rather, the goal has been to record polished performances by skilled singers and players,” reads the liner notes of the album.

If you’re planning to teach a lesson on portraits, consider referencing Gilbert Stuart. For added resource, below is a presentation by Martin Kalfatovic, a libraries coordinator and head of new media at the Smithsonian.

Hillary Andrlik

Hillary has been teaching art in the Chicago area since 2002 and was named Illinois Elementary Art Educator of the Year in 2012 by the Illinois Art Education Association. She received her art education degree from Illinois State University and masters from National Louis University. She is the co-founder and co-author of The Teaching Palette, a blog authored by art educators for art educators, and the digital editor for Illinois Art Education Association. Hillary's teaching strategies and lessons have been featured in numerous media, including School Arts magazine, and she has made several presentations on art education and technology in front of the Illinois Art Education Association and the National Art Education Association. Follow her on Twitter @hilland


  • October 7, 2008


    I wonder how the portrait of George Washington is transferred and printed to the dollar bill. That would be neat to see.

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