Monday, September 17, 2012

Is this portrait by Gilbert Stuart?


I saw your blog online, and was hoping you might help me out. We have a watercolor portrait that my mother-in-law said was a Gilbert Stuart, purchased in 1965 in an antique store in the Ozark Mountains. It measures 15-1/2” wide x 20”, unsigned. Any guidance from you would be deeply appreciated.

Thank you, Irene


Dear Irene,

Thanks for your note! The portrait does not have the hallmarks of a Stuart portrait... Most importantly, Stuart painted so close to reality that the sitter could expect something akin to a photograph. Portraits of women were not idealized, the backgrounds were often similar to the portraits of men (red curtain, bit of sky), accents such as gauzy flowers adorning the canvas were not something he indulged in. This portrait just does not look like a Stuart to me, from looking at the graphic. There is nothing about it, that makes me think...maybe! Stuart has a certain type of strong swish to his accents, the sitters do not appear in a fog of sweetness, but as they appear in reality~ The clothing also does not strike me as being from the period from when Stuart was working. The face was the most important aspect of a Stuart painting so that often the rest of the portrait is nondescript, essentially, in comparison to the face. There is no differentiation in this portrait between the quality & style of the face, and the rest of the portrait....This looks to be a portrait whose style was at the direction of the sitter, not a sitter who was obliged to accept the direction/style of the master artist (which was the way Stuart worked, no woman could ask for flattery in her portrait--he was known to become very angry if such a thing happened). This is, simply, not his style. I am about 97% sure that it is not a Stuart, without seeing the portrait firsthand.

I hope this helps. Can I post your graphic and query on my blog? I would not need to include your name.

Thank you again, Beth


Dear Beth,

Thank you very much for your reply. Disappointing news, of course, but this is the type of information I was looking for, so I very much appreciate your thoughtful comments.Yes, by all means, you may use the image and anything else here.



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