Marianne Ashley Walker

Gilbert Stuart (American, 1755-1828)

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Stuart endows his subject with character and elegance through sheer technical facility, which is evident in Walker's exquisitely rendered flesh tones and lifelike eyes.

This portrait was painted on the occasion of the sitter's marriage.

Gilbert Stuart: Father of American Portraiture

Debt resulting from an inability to manage money kept Gilbert Stuart on the move much of his life. Born in North Kingston, Rhode Island, and raised in Newport, Stuart was taught by a local Scottish painter, who took him to Scotland. His mentor’s death forced Stuart to return to America. During the Revolutionary War, Stuart traveled to England to study with the American expatriate Benjamin West. As success came, so did debt, which forced Stuart to Dublin, Ireland, and then to America, where he eventually became the most highly regarded portraitist of his day. A skillful master of his craft, Stuart painted directly on the canvas without using any preliminary drawing. Stuart was prolific – he painted over one thousand portraits of important political figures. One of his most famous portraits of George Washington was the “Athenaeum Head,” which is currently on the dollar bill.

The portrait of Marianne Ashley Walker exemplifies Stuart’s ability to endow his sitters with character and elegance. The velvet-draped column and serene pose are standard conventions of portraiture at that time, but Stuart’s particular gifts shine forth from her exquisitely rendered flesh and lifelike eyes. Stuart has seized upon the young woman’s dignified beauty, drawing her poise and confidence to an expressive point that stops short of arrogance or disdain. Marianne Ashley Walker was the daughter of John Ashley of Philadelphia. In 1799, she married Simon Walker in Philadelphia. The portrait is thought to have been painted on the occasion of her wedding. The companion portrait of her husband is in the collection of the Baltimore Museum.

Barratt, Carrie Rebora and Ellen Gross Miles. Gilbert Stuart. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2004.

Daniel H. Farr; John Levy Gallery, New York, New York, 1933; given to the museum in 1952.

Object Information

Gilbert Stuart (American, 1755-1828)
creation date
oil on canvas
30-1/2 x 25-1/2 in.
37 x 31-1/2 in. (framed)
accession number
credit line
Gift of Mrs. Nicholas H. Noyes
Public Domain
American Painting and Sculpture to 1945

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