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Imagining George Washington
The Boglewood Catalog
of Images Published during his Life

Image Sources:  Edward Savage

 

EDWARD SAVAGE (1761-1817) was a native of Princeton, New Jersey. He began his professional life as a goldsmith, but soon determined to become a painter. After his initial success in painting a portrait of Washington for

 

Harvard University in 1789-1790, Savage soon left for London, where he studied briefly in the studio of Benjamin West and also trained to become an accomplished engraver.


Savage Type A

Oil on canvas.
30" x 25" ( 1790)

 


To promote his career, Savage offered to paint and donate an oil portrait of Washington for Harvard University, and on 7 November 1789, Joseph Willard, the President of Harvard, wrote a letter to Washington requesting that he sit for the painting:

"When you were in the Philosophy Chamber of the University in this place, you may perhaps remember, that I expressed my wishes, that your Portrait might, some time or other, adorn that Room. Since that, Mr Savage, the Bearer of this . . . has called on me, and of his own accord, has politely and generously offered to take your Portrait for the University, if you will be so kind as to sit. As it would be exceedingly grateful to all the Governors of this literary Society that the Portrait of the Man we so highly love, esteem and revere, should be the property of, and be placed within Harvard College, permit me, Sir, to request the favor of your sitting for the purpose."

Washington, who was then in New York, responded to Willard on 23 December 1789, confirming that the process had already begun.

Washington's diary records that he sat for the painting three hours on 21 December, "all afternoon" on 28 December, and one and a half hours on the following 6 January. The painting was duly presented to Harvard for its "Philosophical Chamber," and the University adopted a formal resolution thanking Savage for his "polite and generous attention to the University."

Josiah Quincy, later president of Harvard, insisted that the portrait was the best likeness he had ever seen of Washington.

Savage also painted a replica of the Harvard painting (and a companion portrait of Martha Washington) for Vice President John Adams. To assist in the second painting, Washington--at Adams' request--sat again for Savage on 6 April 1790. Savage probably painted a second replica for himself at that time.


   
Print based on Savage Type A
  B2102
Boglewood 2102
 

Boglewood 2103
 

Boglewood2104
 
 
Boglewood 2106

Boglewood 2107
Savage Type B

Oil on wood panel.
27.5" x 22"
(c 1790-1793)

 


The circumstances under which this portrait was painted are unclear. It appears to be a copy of Type A with Washington recast in civilian attire. The painting was later owned by Savage's grandson, Charles H. Savage, and in 1916 was bequeathed by a later owner to the Art Institute of Chicago.


    Prints based on Savage Type B


Boglewood 2201


Boglewood 2202


Boglewood 2203
 
 

© 201# Boglewood Company/C. I. G.