Illustrating George Washington

His Excellency George Washington Esq.

His excellency George Washington Esq., 1780.

American and European engravers commemorated Washington’s military campaigns, his political career, and his family life. Some of the most common visualizations of Washington came from widely available prints included in school texts, magazines, history books, and early biographies. Many of these prints show idiosyncratic interpretations of Washington in imaginative settings or have only a vague likeness to his physical appearance.

Two examples in which Washington’s features and the quality and style of the print are markedly different, include an engraving of George Washington from An impartial history of the war in America…, published by London & Carlisle in 1780 and the color lithograph Washington on His Way to Pittsburg, Aged Twenty, published in the early 1800s in New York.

Washington on His Way to Pittsburg, Aged Twenty.

Washington on His Way to Pittsburg, Aged Twenty, ca. 1840.

By the 1840s, the number of two-dimensional Washington representations, often modeled after well-known portraits of Washington, increased greatly in different formats. Printmaker Nathanial Currier (1813-1888) published this color lithograph George Washington. First President of the United States in the mid-1800s. He modeled it after a 1796 portrait by American artist Gilbert Stuart (1755-1828). The increasing availability of these prints not only played a role in mythologizing Washington but also shaped his public persona.