As commander-in-chief, George Washington led the Continental Army to victory. As president of the Constitutional Convention, he helped forge the independent states into a nation. As the first President of the United States, he established precedents that continue to define that office.
After his death in 1799, Washington was held “above the clouds,” to paraphrase Mason Locke Weems, the general’s most popular biographer. The glorification of Washington continued for more than a century, culminating in the romanticized and popular history paintings of the Philadelphia artist Jean Leon Gerome Ferris (1863–1930). These canvases present a remarkably appealing and virtuous figure but provide limited reliable information about the “Father of our Country.”
On loan from the Virginia Museum of History & Culture, “Washington: The Myths and the Man,” coming to William King Museum of Art Oct. 6 through Jan. 29, 2023, explores who George Washington was behind the screen of his renown. “Lighthorse Harry” Lee eulogized that Washington was “first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen . . . The purity of his private character gave effulgence to his public virtues.” This exhibition, featuring 13 original paintings by Ferris along with 17 historical records, focuses on Washington’s private life at Mount Vernon and reveals what motivated him to become a public servant.
Learn more about the exhibition online at williamkingmuseum.org or call (276) 628-5005. “Washington: The Myths and the Man” is organized by the Virginia Museum of History & Culture and is part of the McGlothlin exhibition series at William King Museum of Art.
William King Museum of Art is open seven days a week: Monday through Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Thursday 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sunday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Admission to the museum is free. For information on exhibitions or events at William King Museum of Art visit williamkingmuseum.org or call 276-628-5005.
William King Museum of Art is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums and is a partner of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, a member of the Virginia Association of Museums, and is funded in part by the Virginia Commission for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts.