Gilbert Stuart

Gilbert Stuart

Gilbert Stuart

Gilbert Stuart

Excerpt

The object of this book is to give information concerning the career of a remarkable man, of whose life less has been recorded than the subject deserves. The larger part of this information is new in the sense that it is not to be found in earlier books on Gilbert Stuart or in the histories of English or American art, but my biography, though fuller than any other, does not pretend to be a complete record of the painter's life. A complete record can never be written, chiefly because of the lack of documentary material. Letters in particular are essential to the biographer, and of Stuart's few are known to exist. These, with a page torn from his diary and a certificate proving the originality of the Lansdowne portrait of Washington, comprise the Stuart papers. The famous artist hated writing letters and was inexcusably negligent in his correspondence. Had he not been so, his portrait might have figured today in the Uffizi Gallery at Florence, among those of the masters of the past three or four hundred years. The Director of the Gallery paid him the compliment of asking for his portrait, and he did not take the trouble to reply.

Stuart's work had always interested me and made me curious to know more about him than was to be found in the existing memoirs, but I thought it impossible that any new discoveries could be made until I began to search the London eighteenth- century newspapers for information for my life of Gainsborough published by Mr. John Murray. The search was most successful, for it resulted in the discovery of most of what is known of Gainsborough's life in London. In addition I discovered many articles and paragraphs on the work and proceedings of Stuart in his London period (a period of which his earlier biographers say . . .

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