The War of Independence had an opposite effect on two of the best American painters of that time. The enthusiast Charles Willson Peale realized full-length portraits of Washington in all the energy of his victories. Reluctant, or for fear of losing his traditional customers, Gilbert Stuart preferred to exile in England.
A portrait of Washington painted by Peale in 1779 was sold for $ 21,3M including premium by Christie's on January 21, 2006. The hero was obligingly sitting for artists and Peale had competitors in the next decade such as Joseph Wright and William Dunlap who were to have a role in the birth of the Federal coinage and the sculptor Houdon who came especially from France in 1785.
Meanwhile, Stuart takes advantage of his knowledge of America. He painted in 1786 a portrait of the Mohawk chief Joseph Brant, an ally of the British, then visiting England. This oil on canvas was sold for £ 4.1 million including premium by Sotheby's on July 9, 2014.
Washington becomes in 1789 the first President of the United States. Stuart crosses the Atlantic again and settles in Philadelphia in 1795 to practice his specialty, the half-length portrait of prominent personalities.
The portrait of Washington realized by Stuart in 1796 will later be considered as the prototype of the official portraits of US presidents. Curiously, after painting the face the artist did not finish this work. He used it as a model to make more than a hundred copies that he sold for $ 100 each.
One of these oils on canvas, 76 x 65 cm, is estimated over $ 800K for sale on February 26 in Scottsdale AZ by J Levine, lot 4088. Its condition is not perfect according to the description in the catalogue.