American Paintings and Sculpture
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Photo credit: Yale University Art Gallery
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Key for figures in painting
Artist: John Trumbull, American, 1756–1843

The Resignation of General Washington, December 23, 1783


Oil on canvas

20 × 30 × 1 in. (50.8 × 76.2 × 2.5 cm)
Trumbull Collection

Here Trumbull memorializes the moment when General George Washington arose and addressed Congress at the conclusion of the Revolutionary War:

Having now finished the work assigned me, I retire from the great theatre of action, and bidding an affectionate farewell to this august body, under whose orders I have so long acted, I here offer my commission, and take leave of all the employments of public life.

The cloak on the chair behind Washington suggests a king’s robes draped on a throne, a royal emblem on which he has turned his back. Trumbull called Washington’s voluntary return to the simple life of a farmer “one of the highest moral lessons ever given to the world”:

The Caesars—the Cromwells—the Napoleons—yielded to the charm of earthly ambition, and betrayed their country; but Washington aspired to loftier … glory … which virtue alone can give, and which no power, no effort, no time, can ever take away or diminish.
Depicted Annapolis, Maryland, United States
On view
19th century

Trumbull Collection, to 1832; Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Conn.


David Humphreys, Life of General Washington, paperback (Athens, Ga.: University of Georgia Press, 2006), ii, ill.

David Preston, James Monroe, exh. cat. (Fredericksburg, Va.: University of Mary Washington, 2008), 22, ill.

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), 26, 66, 67–69, 80, 94–95, 101, 102, 103, 104, 106, no. 38, ill.

Helen A. Cooper et al., John Trumbull: The Hand and Spirit of a Painter (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 1982), 88, pl. 31.

Arthur S. Lefkowitz, Eyewitness Images from the American Revolution (Gretna: Pelican Publishing Company, 2017), 232, ill.

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.