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

Image Source: Joseph Wright

 

JOSEPH WRIGHT (1756-1793) was a second generation artist, following in the footsteps of his mother, Patience Wright, who was a sculptor with a studio first in New York City and later in London.  Young Wright joined his mother in London from 1775 until 1781 to study at the Royal Academy.  In 1781 the Wrights moved to Paris, where he became acquainted with Benjamin Franklin and painted

 

several portraits of him.  In 1782 Wright returned to America bearing a letter of introduction from Franklin to George Washington.  In 1783 and thereafter Wright painted several portraits of Washington and modeled his bust.  Washington himself is said to have ordered two of the portraits.  Wright was later appointed the first engraver at the Philadelphia mint.




Dry point etching (1790)

 


Only one print based on Wright's likenesses of Washington was published during Washington's lifetime, a dry point etching from 1790.  The drawing upon which the etching was based has never been identified. Thomas Jefferson had seen it by 11 July 1785, however, when he wrote a friend:  "I have no hesitation in pronouncing Wright's drawing a better likeness of the General than Peale's."  One popular story, presumably apocryphal, claims that Wright drew the likeness while Washington was attending a service at St. Paul's Chapel in New York.

   Print based on Wright
        
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