The United States Postal Service issued a new stamp this week featuring a Gilbert Stuart portrait of George Washington from the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute’s collection. The 20-cent “definitive” stamp joins the ranks of other postage stamps carrying iconic images of American symbols and historic figures.
The George Washington portrait featured on the stamp is one of more than 100 portraits that Stuart painted of the first president based upon three original paintings. Stuart painted three distinct portraits from life: the 1795 “Vaughan portrait,” showing Washington's head turned slightly to his left (a part of the National Gallery of Art’s permanent collection); the 1796 “Athenaeum portrait,” an unfinished portrait showing Washington’s head turned slightly to his right (jointly owned by the National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston); and the 1796-97 “Lansdowne portrait,” a full-length portrait showing the President standing and turned slightly to his right (a part of the National Portrait Gallery’s permanent collection). From these prototypes Stuart completed numerous commissions of similar paintings, most of which were based on the Athenaeum portrait. The Athenaeum portrait is the same image featured on the U.S. one-dollar bill.
The Clark’s George Washington was probably painted sometime between 1796 and 1803, and is one of the portraits Stuart completed based on the Athenaeum prototype. The quantity of these portraits testifies to the widespread admiration of George Washington during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century. These portraits sometimes have subtle differences in the jabot (ornamental shirt ruffles) or hair ribbon, while others have more substantial alterations to the background draperies or architectural elements. In the Clark’s painting, Washington is portrayed with a freely painted collar and jabot and has a dark background that only slightly lightens behind his head and neck. Sterling Clark inherited the Stuart portrait from his mother; the work is one of the highlights of the Clark's American paintings collection.
The U.S. Postal Service issued the George Washington definitive stamp on April 11, 2011, in Washington, D.C., and it is available as a roll of 100 stamps, a pane of 20 stamps, a block of 10 stamps, or a block of 4 stamps. A first day of issue commemorative cover is also available from the U.S. Postal Service. The stamp was designed by Derry Noyes. A definitive stamp is a postage stamp that is part of a regular issue, available for sale by the postal service for an extended period of time. For more information, visit usps.com.
The Clark is one of the few major art museums that also serves as a leading international center for research and scholarship. The Clark presents public and education programs and organizes groundbreaking exhibitions that advance new scholarship, and its research and academic programs include an international fellowship program and conferences. Its 140-acre campus in the Berkshires of Western Massachusetts includes Stone Hill Center, designed by Tadao Ando and opened in 2008, which houses galleries, meeting and classroom facilities, and the Williamstown Art Conservation Center. The Clark, together with Williams College, sponsors one of the nation’s leading master’s programs in art history.
The Clark is located at 225 South Street in Williamstown, Massachusetts. The galleries are open Tuesday through Sunday, 10:00 am to 5:00 pm (daily in July and August). Admission is free November through May. Admission is $15 June 1 through October 31. Admission is free for children 18 and younger, members, and students with valid ID. For more information, call 413 458 2303 or visit clarkart.edu.
225 South Street