Everyone has seen at least one Gilbert Stuart portrait. The painting likely was not in a home, or a museum or art gallery, or even in the halls of government. But, everyone has seen and handled his portrait of George Washington that adorns the one-dollar bill.
Gilbert Charles Stuart (nee Stewart) was born December 3, 1755 in Saunderstown, Rhode Island, a small village and historic district in the towns of Narragansett and North Kingstown. Considered one of America’s best portrait artists, Stuart’s portraits number more than 1,000 paintings. Stuart painted the first six presidents and first ladies. His best-known work is the portrait of Washington.
His father, also Gilbert, was a Scottish immigrant employed in the snuff-making industry, working in America’s first colonial snuff mill that was located in the basement of the family home. His mother, Elizabeth Anthony, was a member of a prominent land-owning family from nearby Middletown.
The young Gilbert moved to Newport at the age of six as his father pursued work in the merchant field among the town’s wharves. It was during this time that the lad first began to show great promise as a painter. During 1771, Stuart moved to Scotland to complete his art studies, and he returned to Newport during 1773. The Revolutionary War interrupted his artistic pursuits, so he traveled to England and later Ireland. He returned to the United States during 1793, eventually settling in Germantown (now part of Philadelphia).
Gilbert Stuart Museum
Throughout all his travels during his life and now more than 180 years since his passing, Stuart’s birthplace has stood on pristine Carr Pond. Authentically restored, the house features the room in which Stuart was born and his father’s snuff mill.
The museum is set in the woods encompassing 23 acres. The property now also features an operating grist mill, fish ladder and colonial herb garden. Nature trails and scenic overlooks embrace the pond, flora and fauna.
The grounds and home were saved during the 1930s. The Gilbert Stuart Birthplace and Museum is a private nonprofit organization that depends on memberships, admission fees, gifts and sponsors. Tours are provided on the hour. For days of operation along with times and fees, visit the above link to the organization’s website, call 401-294-3001, or email firstname.lastname@example.org .