George Washington
George Washington, A National Treasure
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Integrity and firmness is all I can promise; these, be the voyage long or short, never shall forsake me although I may be deserted by all men. -George Washington to Henry Knox, Mount Vernon, April 1, 1789

“With the display of this portrait, we celebrate Washington’s role in history, of course, but more than that, his effect on our own lives today, on the nation, and on the system we have all inherited. It is a precious legacy.”
Marc Pachter
Director, National
Portrait Gallery

The focal point of “George Washington: A National Treasure” is the Lansdowne portrait of George Washington painted by Gilbert Stuart in 1796. Senator and Mrs. William Bingham of Pennsylvania commissioned this full-length painting of Washington as a gift to the Marquis of Lansdowne, an English supporter of American independence.
Painted during the last year of his presidency, this is a portrayal of a George Washington for the ages: resolute in the face of the multiple crises of our nation’s beginnings; grand not in the tradition of a king but of democracy’s representative; civilian rather than military in his authority; and above all, the embodiment of a nation both stable and free. Today the portrait serves as a window into a time when America’s success was by no means certain, giving us a view of a man whose traits of character became bound up with his nation’s fate, and of the expectation for our nation’s highest office—the presidency—at the very moment of its creation.
The National Portrait Gallery is the place our country has set aside to keep generations of remarkable Americans in the company of their fellow citizens. When the Gallery first opened to the public in 1968, this Lansdowne portrait of Washington, then on long-term loan, was the museum’s focal point. For more than 30 years, it symbolized the essence of the Gallery’s mission to recognize great individuals through great art.
In late 2000, the British owner of the painting announced that he was going to put the painting up for sale. The Gallery then faced the daunting task of raising money to save this monumental icon for the nation. Appeals in the press and on television captured the attention of Fred W. Smith, chairman of the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation, who immediately understood the patriotic significance of Stuart’s masterpiece. A few weeks later, the trustees of the foundation announced their generous $30 million gift to the Gallery, which included support for this historic tour of Stuart’s Lansdowne Washington to the American public and ultimately a permanent place to display the portrait in the National Portrait Gallery.
“We believe that the leadership qualities that George Washington exhibited are the same leadership qualities that Americans are searching for today. The trustees of the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation are pleased and proud to be a part of this historic event.”
Steven L. Anderson
President, Donald W. Reynolds Foundation
The National Portrait Gallery is grateful to the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation for saving this painting for the nation and for allowing the Smithsonian to share this treasure with present and future generations of Americans.


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