John Ashley, Esq.
Gilbert Stuart ( American, 1755 - 1828 )
- c. 1798
These portraits [see also 1946.36.M] of a wealthy merchant and his wife were painted in Philadelphia, where the debt-ridden Gilbert Stuart had relocated from Great Britain to recoup his fortune by painting George Washington's portrait. Their swirling brushwork, broad handling, variety of textures, and, in particular, luscious flesh tones were all trademarks of Stuart's style-and light years ahead of any other American artist at the time. Philadelphians such as the Ashleys flocked to Stuart, as did sitters during his later stays in the new city of Washington, D.C., and Boston. Unfortunately, Stuart was famously slow to complete his commissions, thus America's most skilled artist remained perpetually broke.