Bowdoin College Museum of Art

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Artist

Gilbert Stuart (North Kingstown, Rhode Island, 1755 - 1828, Boston, Massachusetts)

Title

Portrait of Thomas Jefferson

Creation Date

ca. 1805-1807

Century

early 19th century

Dimensions

48 1/2 in. x 39 7/8 in. (123.19 cm x 101.28 cm)

Object Type

painting

Creation Place

North America, United States

Medium and Support

oil on canvas

Credit Line

Bequest of the Honorable James Bowdoin III

Copyright

Public Domain

Accession Number

1813.55
A man of the Enlightenment and the principal author of the American Declaration of Independence in 1776, Thomas Jefferson famously asserted the right to “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness” in response to a tyrannical British Empire. This principle, however, did not apply to the many individuals denied citizenship in the new nation: African Americans, Indigenous people, indentured servants, and women. Given the heavy reliance of Jefferson and other early framers of the American republic on the labor and expertise of enslaved individuals, not to mention deep personal connections with them, the irony of the disregard for individuals of non-European descent reflected in the founding documents of the United States is glaring. As the third president of the United States, Jefferson appointed James Bowdoin III as minister plenipotentiary to Spain, inspiring Bowdoin to commission from Gilbert Stuart, one of America’s leading artists, this portrait of Jefferson and that of his Secretary of State James Madison.

Object Description

October 2010:
This portrait of Thomas Jefferson, like its counterpart of James Madison, includes a French-style armchair.


Keywords: portraits  

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