Amon Carter Museum to Exhibit Important Revolutionary War Portrait of George Washington

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Jessica Poole
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Release date: 
October 7, 2004

FORT WORTH, Texas --- On October 19, the Amon Carter Museum will place on view one of the most historically significant artworks of the Revolutionary War era: a portrait of George Washington that has not been on public display since it was painted in 1782 and sent to France. The painting is on loan to the museum from a private collection.

“George Washington at Yorktown” (1782) is a larger-than-life oil portrait by Charles Willson Peale (1741--1827), one of the great figures in the early history of American art. The painting is one of Peale’s most engaging portraits of the new nation’s future first president, showing him as the hero of the Battle of Yorktown, the decisive engagement of the Revolutionary War. It was commissioned by one of Washington’s closest allies and friends, the Marquis de Chastellux, an officer in the French army whose aid to Washington’s troops made possible their triumph over the British forces in Virginia.

Peale served under General Washington in the Continental army, and prior to “George Washington at Yorktown,” he painted six portraits of the Virginia gentleman. Because Peale knew Washington so well, Peale consistently portrayed Washington with personality and warmth.

“We are very pleased and excited to have the opportunity to unveil this long-hidden, yet very significant painting,” noted Amon Carter Museum Director Rick Stewart. “Like all our Founding Fathers, George Washington was a gifted and complex man. The portrait reveals many facets of his character, and the painting’s history chronicles a lasting friendship bound by mutual admiration.”

The portrait will be featured in a small but important exhibition entitled “Compatriots: George Washington, Charles Willson Peale, and the Marquis de Chastellux,” which will be on view at the Carter through January 9. The exhibition will also comprise:

  • Peale’s “Self Portrait” (oil on canvas, 1822), on loan from the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco;
  • The Marquis de Chastellux’s “American Chronicles,” a group of unpublished journals written by the French army officer, who was also well-known as an important commentator on America, predating his more famous countryman Alexis de Toqueville.

About Charles Willson Peale

Charles Willson Peale (1741--1827) was a painter, scientist, philosopher, inventor, founder of the country’s first natural history museum, and proprietor of the first art academy in America. Though of humble origins, Peale managed by his talent and engaging personality to attract financial backing that made possible the best training available to an American artist in his time. In 1766 he traveled to London to train in the studio of the American artist Benjamin West (1738--1820), who in 1769 was named historical painter to King George III.

Peale settled in Philadelphia in June 1776. He was present when the Declaration of Independence was read to the populace on July 8 of that year. He was thus positioned to paint many of the country’s Founding Fathers, who made a point of visiting the studio of the city’s most acclaimed portraitist when they came to Philadelphia on business. Peale was among those who, in the late 18th century, made Philadelphia the center of modern scientific and philosophical inquiry. His interests in natural history and philosophy were as broad reaching as those of his good friend, Benjamin Franklin. Peale’s outsized curiosity is perhaps best represented by the great museum of natural history that he founded in the city. A creative and learned man, he encouraged each of his many children, both sons and daughters, in their artistic and scientific pursuits. Through his children, Peale established a painting dynasty in Philadelphia that lasted for three generations.

To learn more about this exhibition, including additional information on Charles Willson Peale, the Marquis de Chastellux and the Battle of Yorktown, visit www.cartermuseum.org.

The “Star-Telegram” is the official print sponsor of the Amon Carter Museum.