Albany Institute of History and Art

Albany, NY

(518) 463-4478


First in the Hearts of His Countrymen: George Washington


The 200th anniversary of the death of George Washington will be the focus of an upcoming exhibition at the Albany Institute of History & Art The exhibition, First in the Hearts of His Countrymen: George Washington opened on Saturday, January 23, 1999 and continues through May 30, 1999.

December 14, 1999 will commemorate the 200th anniversary of George Washington's death. During his lifetime and since his death, numerous images of our first president have appeared on the walls of public buildings and private homes. Teapots, plates and glass flasks have also been decorated with Washington's face. This exhibition will present a selection of objects bearing Washington's likeness with others relating to his life and career.

Left: Ezra Ames, after Gilbert Stuart, George Washington, oil on canvas, 1826. Stuart's well-known "Athenaeum" portrait of 1795 is the model for this version painted by the prolific Albany portrait painter, Ezra Ames. His is the most famous face in American history and projects an image of honesty and piety. Washington graciously sat·for fifteen artists, sometimes more than once, to have his portrait painted. Washington never wore a wig, but simply powdered his red-brown hair and tied it in a queue. He had blue eyes and preferred to wear simple clothes without lace and embroidery. His slightly bulging mouth is the result of ill-fitting dentures. This copy was executed 50 years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence and is one of three versions by Ezra Ames.

General George Washington visited Albany in 1782 and 1783. His letter dated June 27, 1782 to "The Worshipful the Mayor Aldermen and Commonalty of the City of Albany" accepting the freedam of the city will be showcased alongside a walking stick which was cut from a tree near his tomb at Mount Vernon and given to Richard Varick DeWitt by his uncle, Colonel Richard Varick (1753-1831), Washington's recording secretary.

Right: Nathaniel Currier,Washington First in War, First in Peace and First in the Hearts of His Countrymen , hand-colored lithograph, c.l850.

Household items which bear his portrait will show the variety of objects mass produced for the patriotic American market. Glass flasks, ceramics made in Liverpool and Staffordshire, England, and popular prints will illustrate the man who inspired patriotism in his fellow countrymen. A tabletop basalt earthenware bust manufactured by Wedgwood used a life cast of Washington by Houdon as a model and is therefore considered a fairly accurate likeness. A unique c.1843 dumb stove featuring a toga clad Washington designed by Alonzo Blanchard of Albany will anchor two portraits by other Albany artists. The stove is featured as a highlight in AIHA's recent publication, 200 Years of Collecting.

Interest in Washington increased during the anniversaries of his birth and inauguration. His memory was honored with a Centennial Ball held in Albany in February 1832 and again for the bicentennial of his birth in 1932. The Albany Institute of History & Art participated in the celebration with an exhibition the same year. A letter from President Millard Fillmore thanking the Electors of the City of Albany for their contribution of $378.49 to the Washington Monument Fund in Washington, DC dated November 10, 1852 will also be on exhibition.

For further biographical information on selected artists cited above please see America's Distinguished Artists, a national registry of historic artists.

rev. 9/20/10

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