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American Paintings and Sculpture
Artist: John Trumbull, American, 1756–1843
General George Washington at Trenton
Oil on canvas
235 x 160 cm (92 1/2 x 63 in.)
Gift of the Society of the Cincinnati in Connecticut
In 1792 the city of Charleston, South Carolina, commissioned from John Trumbull a portrait of George Washington for its city hall to commemorate the president’s visit in May 1791. The commission had personal significance for Trumbull, for he had served as Washington’s second aide-de-camp during the Revolution. Trumbull chose to convey the critical moment of Washington’s leadership during the Revolutionary War when his night maneuvers at Trenton, New Jersey, led to a decisive victory at Princeton the following day, a major turning point of the war. Trumbull considered this portrait the “best of those which I painted.” In Trumbull’s blend of history painting and portrait, the commander in chief epitomizes heroism and nobility, yet Charleston refused to accept it on the grounds that they preferred a more amiable and peaceful image. Trumbull produced another likeness of Washington, this time with the city in the background, which Charleston accepted.
Susan B. Matheson, Art for Yale: A History of the Yale University Art Gallery (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 2001), 89, fig. 8.
Helen A. Cooper et al., Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness: American Art from the Yale University Art Gallery, exh. cat. (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 2008), 67, 94, 11617, 123, 219, no. 58, ill.
Michelle Facos, An Introduction to Nineteenth-Century Art (New York: Routledge, 2011), 54, fig. 3.2.
Note: This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the Yale University Art Gallery’s complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of such records is ongoing.