Painting, Portrait of Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826)
Gilbert Stuart was known for his ability to capture remarkably lifelike images of his contemporaries, especially the illusion of human flesh. The surprising variety, economical application, and masterful placement of the pigments in the face of this portrait of Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) persuade us that, indeed, blood courses beneath the subject's skin. The result is a compelling representation of the reality of human presence.
Historians continue to debate which of Stuart's several portraits of America's third President was done from a life sitting that took place in Washington, D. C., in 1805. In any case, Colonial Williamsburg's version almost certainly was painted before Stuart left Washington in July of that year. On February 15, 1806, artist William Dunlap noted having seen the portrait in the possession of Dolley Madison, whose husband, James, had acquired it from Stuart.